By Wilnard Bacelonia
MANILA – A lawmaker sees no problem with the Philippines and the United States adding four new locations to boost the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), provided the original intent of the existing agreement is followed.
Senator Francis Tolentino threw his all-out support to this move, which was stated in a joint statement released by the United States Department of Defense and the Philippine Department of National Defense.
“I am in favor of defense/security cooperation ‘upgrades’ with reliable allies like the United States, considering the evolving regional conditions and challenges, so long as this is anchored on solid constitutional foundations and for the greater interests of the nation and EDCA,” Tolentino, who also serves as vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said in a statement.
Amid the latest tensions in the disputed territories along the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, Tolentino recently proposed the conduct of a multilateral show of maritime security cooperation with the US and other neighboring countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Tolentino said expanding the conduct of joint patrols, to include other claimant states among ASEAN nations, would help ensure the freedom of navigation, exercise of fishing rights, and somehow pacify existing tensions due to territorial disputes hounding the South China Sea region.
Meanwhile, he dismissed comments that the new EDCA agreement would pave the way to deeper interventions of the US in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Intervention is part of geopolitical situation. All other countries are likewise intervening. In a modern world, we have to take everything into account for purposes of international peace and security,” Tolentino told Senate reporters.
“One of the contents of the preamble is that the EDCA will not pave the way for the establishment of permanent military presence or base in the Philippines. So, hindi naman sila magiging permanente dito (they will not be permanent here). Temporary rotational maintenance of forces,” he added.
The EDCA, Tolentino said, is part of the implementation mechanism of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 that the US and the Philippines signed.
“In so far as the West Philippine Sea is concerned and the other areas, the United States is bound to support and help the Philippines pursuant to the MD Treaty of 1951,” he said.
Tolentino said “friendship and sovereignty” must be the key pillars in laying down the parameters for the new partnership between the two Pacific-ally nations. (PNA)