Binay views EDCA as favoring regional security, stability

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Friday, May 2, 2014

VICE President Jejomar Binay urged the need to support the new defense cooperation agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

Binay, who is now in Washington, DC, described the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that was signed in Manila recently as an important pillar of the country’s regional security policy as well as an effective response mechanism to humanitarian and natural disasters.

"A stronger American military presence in the Philippines and greater interoperability between our respective armed forces dramatically increases our individual and collective defense capabilities, providing a dramatic deterrent against external aggression," the Vice President told his audience that included diplomats, business leaders and members of the Filipino-American community.

"Through the EDCA, we have effectively upgraded our own security platform, without shifting a significant portion of our limited resources to support an arms race and procure weapons systems that exceed our normal defense requirements," he said.

Binay expressed strong belief that EDCA is a great help for the country explaining that this will invite more investors for the Philippines.

"It will soothe and calm the investment climate in the Philippines. It enables us to focus better on developing a solid economic base to combat poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and disease," he said.

Binay also pointed out that EDCA does not signal a shift in the Manila's core strategy for regional security.

"We have always believed and will continue to hold ourselves to the principle that the future of mankind lies not in conflict nor war, but in dialogue, cooperation, development and peace," he said.

However, lawyer Harry Roque noted that the US will likely not help the Philippines in case of an armed attack from China because the Americans did not give the same assurance it had promised Japan, host of thousands of US troops.

In US President Barack Obama's pronouncements on the territorial disputes, Roque said Obama did not mention the Spratlys or Panatag in his remarks about the Philippines.

He however explicitly mentioned Senkaku Island, which is at the heart of the territorial conflict between China and Japan.

Roque said the Americans have never believed that Filipinos have title over the Spratlys and the Scarborough shoal.

When France first declared it had title to the Spratlys in 1933, only Japan, China and the United Kingdom protested the French claim.

The Americans, who were then the colonial power in the Philippines, did not protest the French proclamation, he said.

"Why? Because they thought that what they purchased from Spain through the Treaty of Paris were only the land territories contained in the map annexed to the Treaty, even if the Treaty does specify that what was bought was the 'archipelago of the Philippines, the common meaning of which means islands and waters forming a unitary whole,'" he said.

"So if the Americans would not come to our assistance against China on the West Philippines Sea, why did we allow them further access to our military bases?" Roque added.

According to Binay, the Philippines will continue to pursue a peaceful solution to the disputes in the South China Sea by opting for arbitration as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and supporting efforts towards the conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct between Asean and China.

"Let me stress, nonetheless, that our support for EDCA does not reflect a freezing of ties with China. Nor do we view the disputes in the South China Sea as the totality of our bilateral relations with China," he said, citing the increase in trade with Beijing that made it the country's largest trading partner as well as the historic and people-to-people ties.

"In the end, trade, as well as the deep filial ties that bind our peoples will prevail over the issues of territory and boundaries that are currently threatening our relationship," the Vice President said.

Binay also said the Philippines must further liberalize its economy to improve the country's competitiveness and allow it to attract local and foreign investments in manufacturing and other sectors.

"We must harmonize local and national laws to ensure investors of orderly business operations," he said. "We must cure the policy and infrastructure misalignments that emerge as we cascade our gains to the grassroots."

He said a true open skies policy with an aggressive airport development program must be undertaken alongside reforms in the electric power industry as well as the modernization of the agriculture sector. (Jun M. Sarmiento/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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