IN defending the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, lawmakers on Tuesday declared that it did not need the approval of the Senate.
Senators Loren Legarda and Antonio Trillanes 4th said the EDCA was considered as an agreement both by the Philippine and United States governments. Thus, it need not be ratified by the Senate.
However, Legarda, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said she still wanted to continue the briefing and consultation with the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) to determine the limitations of EDCA.
The agreement stipulates that the MDB will be responsible for the effective implementation of EDCA, she added.
“According to them, that is only an agreement. So we have to respect that. I will continue to engage them in discusssion, we will continue the briefng to make sure that EDCA will be properly implemented,” Legarda told reporters.
For his part, Trillanes said critics of the agreement can challenge its constitutionality before the Supreme Court (SC).
“If anybody feels otherwise, then they can raise it with the Supreme Court. And let the High Court decide,” said Trillanes, chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security.
As a former Marine officer, Trillanes expressed belief that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will benefit a lot from the EDCA.
“We will gain from EDCA, militarily, capacity building. Most definitely, we will gain a lot from the agreement,” he said.
At the same time, Trillanes expressed confidence that China will not be provoked by the signing of the agreement.
“They [China] will not be offended by this, because they are friends. The United States and China are closer friends than we are,” he added.
Both Legarda and Trillanes maintained that they have been thoroughly briefed at every step of the negotiations for the EDCA.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said EDCA was just a policy drafted in line with the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty, thus it needed no approval from the Senate.
Biazon’s view was also shared by former President Fidel Ramos.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Monday signed the EDCA at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City three hours before US President Barack Obama arrived for a two-day visit to the country.
Goldberg pointed out that the 10-year pact will not reopen US bases in the Philippines but “it’s an agreement to enhance our defense relationship.”
The US ambassador also said the EDCA will also take Philippines-US bilateral security relationships to a higher level.