The President can scrap the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States because it is an executive agreement, not a treaty, Senate president pro-tempore Ralph Recto said on Monday.
Recto explained that since the EDCA is an executive agreement, Duterte can abrogate the deal that allows the US to build structures, store weapons and station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, and other military equipment for 10 years on “agreed locations” in the country, once he assumes office.
Recto, one of the 15 senators who signed a resolution expressing the strong sense of the Senate that EDCA requires Senate concurrence, said the agreement should have been ratified by the Senate.
The National Democratic Front had urged Duterte to undo the Aquino administration’s legacy of national humiliation by abrogating EDCA and ending the Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines.
But a think tank said Manila should strengthen alliance treaties with the US and other countries like Japan and Australia.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also should shift its stance from internal security to territorial defense, Dindo Manhit, President of the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi), said.
“We believe the AFP should now develop a credible defense position that would make a potential adversary think twice before using force against the Philippines,” Manhit added.
Another option is fostering a trilateral armed forces featuring the Army, Air Force and Navy for maritime territorial security, in particular the monitoring and securing of Philippine-controlled land features in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and adjacent waters.
Manhit cautioned that no amount of resources and arms acquisition can enable the Philippines to face an assertive and militarily powerful China thus, efforts must be concentrated on strengthening the AFP’s joint operations capabilities.
It is thus crucial for the administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to strengthen its alliance with the US built around EDCA, he said.
“Continuous training with allied forces, including the US and its other bilateral allies such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea should also be prioritized,” Manhit added.
The development of an early warning, surveillance and command, control and communication must be done with an ally or set of allies in mind, he said.
Another area of cooperation is Stratbase ADRi’s US-Philippines Strategic Initiative (USPSI), a high-level policy dialogue project launched last year in Washington featuring the think tank, the Philippines Inc. Eminent Persons Group, and Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The USPSI is a three-year project designed to add depth, creativity and a sense of urgency in modernizing the US-Philippine alliance, Manhit said.