SUPREME Court (SC) justices voted on the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the Philippines and United States oblivious of the geopolitical consequences of the accord that may include heightened terrorist threat in the country, an analyst said on Wednesday.
Professor Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), noted that US facilities are a magnet for terror attacks.
For years, he said, extremist groups have targeted American facilities whether in the Middle East, Africa or elsewhere.
The High Tribunal’s decision upholding the legality of EDCA will allow the US to put up facilities in Philippine military headquarters, airfields, harbors and other territories, according to Tuazon.
Terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda will have to embed themselves into the Philippines to attack these facilities since there are reportedly local extremists in the country who claim to be ISIS recruits or are sympathetic to this new terrorist organization.
“The SC justices forget that cases related to sovereign and territorial issues should be guided by the overarching constitutional principle of pursuing an independent foreign policy, prohibition against the presence of foreign forces and renouncing war as an instrument of foreign policy. On this basis, they will be accountable for the unfortunate implications of their ruling,” Tuazon said.
The SC on Tuesday voted 10-4 declaring EDCA as an executive agreement that does not require the ratification of the Senate.
Malacañang said the agreement signed in 2014 by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg will further “strengthen the strategic partnership” between the two countries.
It will also help the modernization program of the Philippine military as it allows US forces to access select Philippine military camps and bring in military materiel into the country.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author of a resolution adopted by the Senate, insisted that EDCA is a prohibited agreement because it was made without the concurrence of the Senate.
She cited Article 7, Section 21 of the Constitution which reads, “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”
Santiago, along with 13 other senators, maintained that EDCA is not an executive agreement but a treaty that requires the Senate’s concurrence.
According to Tuazon, EDCA will greatly benefit the US government as it will allow large presence of US forces including warships, attack planes and military equipment in the region, thus giving them tactical advantage against China.
“US military build-up in the region will not help ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and may lead to miscalculations resulting in actual hostilities with China. This should be avoided. But what cannot be avoided is the possible increase in the militarization of the West Philippine Sea,” he explained.
“They [SC] ruled merely on legal technicalities. But court decisions should also be based on foresight and prudence particularly on the rulings’ implications,” Tuazon said.
Senator Ferdinand Macos Jr, one of those who signed Santiago’s resolution, said he disagreed with the ruling of the SC and maintained that the agreement is a treaty that should be ratified by the Senate.
“That is our procedure, that is the way we in the Senate handle international treaties,” Marcos said, clarifying he is not against EDCA.
Talks to continue
With the SC ruling, talks between the US and the Philippines on the installation of a facility in the country may now be completed, Col. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said also on Wednesday.
Padilla, however, also clarified that what will be put up is a facility for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
“Regarding facilities where we can allow them, there have been previous discussions, we have discussed the possible locations but these talks were not final. We will resume discussions especially now that we have the go- signal that EDCA is constitutional,” he said.
According to him, the talks were scuttled when several groups challenged the legality of the defense pact at the High Court.
Among the military camps considered for the facility are the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and some camps in Central Visayas, Mactan Air Base and Camp Lapu Lapu in Cebu and Camp Peralta in Jamindan in Capiz.
These camps, Padilla said, are being considered as jumping boards for disaster response.
US authorities will be allowed to store and keep items related to disaster relief operations, he added.
These items include power generators, lightings, water purifiers and mobility equipment like trucks, heavy lifters and forklifts among others.
“The storage of equipment right now is limited to [these]equipment, so no tanks, no war fighting equipment for the moment,” Padilla said.