Church leaders oppose US-PHL defense pact

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

THE Enhanced Development Coordination Agreement (EDCA) recently signed between the United States and the Philippines may not be as beneficial to the country as one might think, said a female leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).

Reverend Emma Catubig thinks that EDCA will only bring abuses of human rights by American servicemen who will be assigned to the country.

Catubig cited the much-talked-about Subic rape case years ago of "Nicole" by four members of the US Marines Corps who visited the country through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).


It can be recalled that the 1991 treaty between the two countries through the VFA was met with protests from various sectors.

The VFA is a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines to have their respective military forces visit each other’s country for training.

“This is one of the main reasons why that EDCA shouldn’t be signed in the first place. We had an agreement signed with them. But how come they are the ones violating the laws in the first place?” Catubig told this paper in an interview Monday.

“Unsa gyud diay ang katuyuan ana? Kinsa diay atong kontra? China? Di ba ang kontra sa China kay ang US man? Ngano damayon man ta (What is really the intent? Who really is our enemy? China? Isn't it that China's foe is the US? Why include us),” she added.

EDCA is recognized as an executive agreement by both countries. It was signed by Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, prior to the arrival of US President Barack Obama for his state visit in the country last April 28, 2014.

Just like VFA, there were protests prior to that day and even during Obama’s executive tour. IFI is one of those which disagreed with the idea of EDCA, Catubig said.

“Unfair lang gyud kaayo! Alipin ta pirmi! Kung EDCA atong sturyahan, kung tanawon nato ug maayo, kinsa man gyud diay atong kontra (It is so unfair. We’ve always been slaves. If we talk about EDCA and take a close look at it, who really is our enemy)?” Catubig said.

For her, the Filipinos need peace, food on the table, unity, among others.

“These are what we need. Inviting them is adding to our burdens. They bring war. It is nothing. Wala man intawo’y nada kana. Mao na ang shalom sa IFI gyud,” she said.

Most protests clamor on how the US is exploiting the resources and minerals, which the country has in abundance.

Catubig shared her experience when she visited Bulao in the city where the miners’ license was to run a ‘dredging’ operation but that it was actually used in separating the gold from the rocks.

IFI vows to hold massive information dissemination and education to its members to spread on the harm EDCA brings to the Filipinos.

She said that whenever there are human rights violations done by the US troops in the country, the Philippines is left with ‘no choice.’

No legislative action

Reverend Goel Bagundol of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)-Cagayan de Oro City shared the same sentiments with Catubig with regard EDCA.

“People are saying that it is for security but how come there is no legislative act for this? In what way are we secured? How are we going to be secured? No definition yet, di ba?” Bagundol said.

Bagundol said the issue on EDCA touches on the country’s sovereignty.

“It is a simple logic. The presence of the US military forces will question the sovereignty of the Philippines. There should be clarity between our country and US,” he added.

He fears that having this agreement will only worsen current matters with China and it could create a gap between the Filipinos and Chinese since majority of foreign settlers here are Chinese.

UCCP also did not see any benefits the country will gain from EDCA aside from the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

“What benefits? We do not see benefits. Everyone should try looking at the other side of the coin. People should be learning to be proactive and be defensive and not to depend lang on what they’ve watched on TV. Those are just in the surface,” Bagundol furthered.

The Philippines is a known US ally, rooted in history and cultural ties.

Bagundol, however, fears that this continued alliance between two countries will put the Philippines in a bad light.

“We will be caught in war if that comes. US and China are big countries. If they fight, of course, China will attack all US allies – that includes us, of course. I am not sure if we are even prepared for it. Why can’t we just learn from our history that signing this EDCA will not lead us to anything at all?” he added.

EDCA benefits

For the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the primary beneficiary of EDCA, Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Gille, the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion’s Civil-Military Operations (4ID-CMO) battalion commander in region 10, said that it would be to their great advantage once the agreement is implemented.

“EDCA will enhance our relationship with the US troops. They can train us and develop our knowledge that we can use in field battles through the joint training activities,” he said.
Gille is also confident that the US troops can help the country in terms of the defense citing the situation over at the Spratly Islands.

“They can help us in building our defense when it comes to external conflicts. They would be like, ‘Uncle Sam,’ in that kind of sense,” he added.

Aside from security, he said that the economy, peace and order, business, among others, will be included in the benefits that everyone in the country can get out of EDCA.

He is positive that if there would be lapses in the agreement during its 10-year span, they can always modify it.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 08, 2014.

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