Herrera: EDCA needs Senate approval

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A FORMER senator believed that the recently approved Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States must be ratified by the Senate first before it can become effective.

In a press conference of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on Wednesday, former senator Ernesto Herrera said that though he is supporting the EDCA deal, which will boost the capability of the military and the coast guard, he believed that it still needs Senate ratification.

"Yes. That should be ratified… well iba-ibang procedure eh. Under the Philippine Laws, 'pag treaty, it should pass through the Senate. 'Yung sa US, you don't need to engage in a treaty eh. 'Yun lang it's a question under procedure but it goes down on how we can enhance the capability of the Philippine Armed Forces to defend our shore[s]," Herrera said.

He said the country badly needs the EDCA at this moment especially that China has already began flexing its military muscles to reinforce its position in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

"Kailangan. Kailangan yun… you know, for over 60 years, we have that kind of arrangement with the US bases, unfortunately in 1991, we abrogated the US Bases," the former lawmaker said.

Herrera was one of the 12 senators in 1991 who voted in favor of the retention of the US military bases and facilities in the country. Then Senate President Jovito Salonga cast the deciding vote to oust the American forces after a 12-12 deadlock.

"I ask for the retention of [the bases for] five years at that time sapagkat ang [labor] unions sa US bases were our members [in the TUCP]… minsan mayabang tayo eh, alam naman talaga natin na wala tayong kapabilidad… eh marami sa mga fishermen natin, hinde na maka [pagtrabaho] in our sovereignty zone. Who can protect them? Wala! We have a very weak military, we have a very weak coast guard and that is unfortunate," Herrera said.

With the ongoing debate on the matter, Herrera believed that it is the Filipino people who must decide on the issue.

"Remember, the only arbiter when it comes to law is only the Supreme Court. Let the Supreme Court decide, and now there is the Filipino people. Ano ba ang practical side? I think the ruling majority is supportive anyway simply because we know, we can’t defend ourselves," Herrera said.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo said the US President Barack Obama's statement that Washington's commitment to Manila was "ironclad" was not only reassuring for the Philippines, but powerful and forceful for Beijing.

"If China wants to continue its hegemony in West Philippine Sea, its leaders should know that the Philippines would not be alone to defend its territorial integrity," Castelo said.

He added that Obama has successfully guided the pivotal shift in the US foreign policy to emphasize the importance of East Asia.

"He has succeeded to reaffirm its commitment to its allies, notably the Philippines," Castelo said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, said the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US is enough reason to believe that America will come to the country's aid if needed.

"Under the Mutual Defense Treaty, the United States will come to the assistance of the Philippines if our metropolitan territory is attacked or if our Armed Forces are attacked in the Pacific area," said del Rosario.

He said this would include a possible clash between the Philippines and China over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

"In 1999, in a diplomatic letter, the United States affirmed that the South China Sea is considered as part of the Pacific area," said del Rosario.

The Philippines is currently engaged in a territorial dispute with China marked by several incidents in the disputed waters between the two countries.

The Philippines has also filed an arbitration case before the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea Arbitral Tribunal against China’s unilateral claim of the West Philippine Sea. (With HDT/Sunnex)

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