Obama: Commitment to defend PH ‘ironclad’

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US President Barack Obama delivers a speech to American and Filipino troops at Fort Bonifacio. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech to American and Filipino troops at Fort Bonifacio. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

BEFORE departing for Washington on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama left what he called an “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines if it is attacked by external enemies.

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Speaking at the Philippine Army Gymnasium in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City (Metro Manila), Obama said the American government will keep such commitment because the United States and the Philippines are allies.

“And no potential aggressor can be under the illusion that either of them stands alone.

In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad. The United States will keep that commitment because allies will never stand alone,” he told American and Filipino servicemen and veterans.

Obama made the statement in apparent response to criticisms that the US has no firm commitment to defend the Philippines even with the signing of the enhanced defense cooperation agreement (Edca) between the two countries hours before he arrived in Manila on Monday.

Edca allows the US to increase rotational presence of American forces in the country, bring in equipment and weaponry and access Philippine military camps.

With uniformed American and Filipino soldiers standing behind him on stage, Obama said he visited the Philippines “in order to reaffirm our enduring alliance between the two countries.”

“We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force,” he added, apparently alluding to a festering territorial row between the Philippines and China.

In a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino Jr. on Monday, Obama, however, said the US has no intention to contain China, only that he strongly favors settlement of disputes through arbitration.

The US president cited the 60 years of defense alliance between Manila and Washington bound by the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951.

“This treaty means our two nations pledge, and I’m quoting, our ‘common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone,’” he said.

The defense alliance, according to Obama, will continue with the recent signing of Edca.

“Deepening our alliance is part of our broader vision for Asia-Pacific. We believe that nations and people have the right to live in security and peace and have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected,” he said.

Don’t be complacent
But despite Obama’s assurances, a lawmaker on Tuesday said the Philippines should not let its guard down in pushing for its claims to islands within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, a former Marine captain, made the call a few hours after Obama ended his state visit to the Philippines—the last but arguably the most important stop of the US leader’s trip to four Asian nations that also included South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

“What was vague [on Monday]about President Obama’s statement was made clear [on Tuesday]when he said the defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States is ironclad. This equates to absolute and binding agreement between two nations but [Edca] should not make our government complacent,” Alejano said in a text message.

Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list said also on Tuesday he believes that the US will come to the aid of the Philippines because it cannot afford to take the Mutual Defense Treaty for granted and risk loss of confidence among its Asian allies.

With Llanesca Panti And William B. Depasupil

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3 Comments

  1. Migs Doromal on

    The point is our territorial integrity is under threat by China which by the manifested declarations and actions of its Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) leaves no doubt of its expansionist goals of claiming the South China seas which it sees as a means to deter a future nuclear strike by the United States. READ: China’s new nuclear submarine base built underground in the province of Hainan. It is the largest nuclear submarine base on this planet. With South China sea under its claimed territories, it will be able to restrict the movement of nuclear subs of its enemy. Nuclear subs means second strike capabilities.

    When two giants in the jungle collide, the little animals scamper for safety.

    In the case of the Philippines, we have cast our lot with our American allies. Once, they were our oppressors, now we consider them friends and fear another foreign oppressor lurking in the horizon.

    We gained a security blanket through EDCA. Like it or not, it is the best deal you will ever get. Perhaps we should put to task those senators in 1991 who voted to give the Americans the boot like ex-convict/ plunderer ERAP, JPE, Jovito Salonga, Wigberto Tanada, Rene Saguisag, and others.

    Two years after the Americans left Subic and Clark, China came and stole our Mischief Reef. Blame those left-leaning and ignorant senators that left us with the laughable postcard of an old and dilapidated sunken ship off in the Ayungin Shoal as our first line of defense against Chinese incursions into our territorial waters.

    One thing is certain, there will be wars in the near future and China and the USA will be the main players and those nations that revolve around their orbits cannot escape the wrath of carnage and destruction that war brings.

  2. Gabriel Montana on

    A few protesters don’t reflect the sentiment of the vast majority of Filipinos who welcome and embrace the historical ties of Fil Am friendship and mutual goodwill.

  3. Why wasting American Tax dollars if were not even welcome there? I hope those protesting against the US Government get there wish to live under the communist rule well see how can the coup under Chinese rules