THE Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA is perfect in wording and it is in strict conformity with the constitutional ban on foreign military bases on national territory. That ban, which I vehemently opposed, did not ban imperative military alliances like that under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) for our sovereign self-preservation. Not even explicit constitutional language could ban that because it would be tantamount to sovereign suicide.
Yet there are Chinese agents on both sides of the MDT who argue that the treaty does not commit the US to an all-out defense of the Philippines. Some Americans argue thus and we can confidently say they are in Chinese pay. Since the 2007-2008 global financial crisis—from which the previous president saved us—inflicted by American banks, a lot of Americans have become hard up, and some take financial relief from any source. It happened before in what is unjustly labeled the McCarthy Era. Some Filipinos argue that the MDT derogates from Philippine sovereignty either from a similar economic pinch or because it gives them free publicity from a left-leaning media.
Far from derogating, the MDT, which was merely operationalized by EDCA’s specifics, is all that stands between Philippine sovereignty and its extinction.
Sure, the MDT was never enforced in the half-century it has been in force. That alone shows its effectiveness. MDT’s existence alone was so convincing a deterrent that there was never need on the part of either party to fight a foreign foe.
However, the end of the US bases lengthened the response time of American intervention under the terms of the treaty from immediate to the sailing time for the US 7th fleet to get here. Or for us to attack an Asian enemy that has struck the mainland United States.
The EDCA has shortened the response time again, back to the US bases era, by prepositioning facilities and American personnel inside Philippine bases (albeit on a rotational basis). Nonetheless, American lives have been made hostages to our national fortunes in a time of war. The idea is not original. Richard Armitage (a Vietnam war hero and humanitarian in my book) took up my suggestion in a talk I delivered at the US War College during the heated US bases talks. My proposal in a pithy formula was “Filipino and American pilots in American fighters” based no longer in American but in Philippine-American bases, both flags flying alongside each other. Something like NATO.
But by then the Americans themselves had lost interest in foreign bases; military bases were closing down in the mainland United States, throwing Americans out of jobs, and making foreign bases hateful to them. So it was doomed along with the idea I proposed.
True, the EDCA does not name China as a potential aggressor but why should it? China is no more our enemy than it is America’s at this time. The Americans and us need Chinese investments. The West is poor. White men work as valets in 5-star Asian hotels. Nothing about the EDCA stands in the way of increasing business with China. All it does is put our sovereignty back in hands we can trust to protect it because the Philippines is too close to China and too far from the United States—pretty much like Mexico’s tragedy is to be too close to the United States and too far from God.
The next issue is where U.S. military equipment and facilities will be pre-positioned. This cannot be revealed to the public and so to potential enemies. The essence of defense is surprise. It is as simple as that, or else why not conduct the talks in Beijing. This is what was really wrong with the NBN-ZTE deal which involved a Philippine government-dedicated telecom system furnished and operated by the Chinese. This was like giving an extension phone to Beijing when we communicate with the Pentagon in a time of crisis. Our telecommunications have to be American-made and operated—or purely local. It cannot be European because France and Germany heavily contribute the most advanced weaponry to the Chinese military modernization program as I have repeatedly reported. Perhaps DOCOMO qualifies.
But what we cannot allow is enhanced U.S. access to Philippine bases to be used to come to the aid of other American allies in the region.
What happens to the rest of ASEAN is no concern of ours nor is it any concern of the U.S. under the terms of the MDT. We recognize commitments to the U.S. strictly in its capacity as the other party to the treaty; which is why I raised a stink when I was in the Palace and learned that U.S. allies were also using Clark and Subic. Their friggin’ jets were moved to Arizona.
The MDT is a mutual defense treaty whereby each party is the other’s only ally. It can never be an implicitly multilateral defense arrangement by unilateral act of the United States.
It is as simple as that. So when we hear Japan say that EDCA is good because it stabilizes the region, we should answer, “Says who, you?”
Not as far as the Philippines is concerned. If Japan wants stability, we must enter into a Philippine-Japan mutual defense treaty. But never, never with another ASEAN country not least because none of them have any military capability worth mentioning, except possibly Indonesia.