Thursday, January 22, 2015

US presses need for EDCA as it awaits SC ruling

From Rappler (Jan 22): US presses need for EDCA as it awaits SC ruling

A visiting US official stresses the importance of the PH-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in ensuring regional peace, as the US government awaits the High Court's verdict on the constitutionality of EDCA

A visiting US official said that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the new PH-US military-to-military agreement signed in April 2014, will strengthen the superpower's cooperation with the Philippines as "equal partners."

In a news briefing in Manila on Wednesday, January 21, David Shear, US Defense Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific, said that his government is “looking forward” to the implementation of EDCA and stressed its importance in ensuring regional peace.

“We look forward to the implementation of EDCA as soon as the Philippine judicial process is complete....The EDCA will really help us in all these areas – to strengthen our cooperation as equal partners,” said Shear, who is in Manila for the 5th annual Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue.

The Supreme Court, which is deliberating on petitions questioning the legality of EDCA, held oral arguments on the executive agreement late last year. (WATCH: VLOG: SC ends oral arguments on EDCA)

[Video report: US awaits EDCA ruling

The Philippines and the US held in Manila this week the 5th annual Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, where the treaty allies agreed to step up joint training in maritime security and maritime domain awareness at a time of growing concern over China's reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The activities are seen to strengthen China's presence in the disputed area, especially once China completes construction of what is believed to be a runway in one of the reefs.

EDCA makes way for increased US military presence in the Philippines by allowing the construction of US facilities inside Philippine military bases and preposition assets there.

The executive agreement was signed in April 2014 by US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin shortly before US President Barrack Obama arrived in Manila in April 2014.

It was immediately questioned before the Supreme Court for allegedly allowing de-facto basing, which requires a Philippine Senate-ratified treaty. The Philippine government has argued that EDCA is an implementation of existing treaties – the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

EDCA is a result of the Philippines' request for US assistance in the wake of China's aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea. The request also coincides with the the US rebalance to the Asia Pacific, a strategy that has not taken full swing because of remaining issues in the Middle East.

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