EDCA to deter aggression, boost disaster response
MANILA -- Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Philippines' Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States will not reflect a "freezing of ties" with China, which is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Manila.
In his speech during the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C. on Thursday (Friday in Manila), Binay stressed the importance of the new defense deal forged between the Philippines and the US last Monday.
He said the agreement, which allows the increased rotation presence of US forces in the country, will deter aggressors and provide a quick disaster response mechanism.
"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," Binay said at the forum, which was attended by 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 added.
He said the deal will also help government achieve its goal of improving the lives of Filipinos.
"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, however, maintained that the new defense cooperation agreement will not signal a shift in the Philippines' core strategy in resolving its row with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
He said Manila will continue to hold to the principle that the "future of mankind lies not in conflict nor war, but in dialogue, cooperation, development and peace."
"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.
The vice president noted that China is the Philippines' largest trading partner.
"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," Binay said.