Belmonte: No need to ratify defense deal

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 30 2014 02:54 AM | Updated as of Apr 30 2014 10:54 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. believes the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the Philippine and US governments does not need Congress' approval for its implementation.

In an interview yesterday, Belmonte said the EDCA is constitutional as it was based on the previous security agreements of the two countries.

“Actually, it’s just an enhancement of various existing treaties with the US,” Belmonte said, referring to the military assistance agreement between the Philippines and US in 1949, the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, and the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, said the Constitution mentions three conditions that may be present in an agreement that requires concurrence of the Senate.

Biazon said under the Constitution, an agreement would need the approval of the Senate if it is political in nature, permanent and requires changing some existing national policies. He said the EDCA is neither political nor permanent, as it is valid only for 10 years, and apparently does not require any change in policies.

“I would not want to preempt the Senate but Malacañang must provide Congress with copies of the EDCA so we can find out the role Congress must play in implementing this agreement,” Biazon said. He said there is another factor that is not mentioned in the Constitution, which is the legislative aspect of the implementation of any agreement.

“For example, if we will allow the use of our military facilities, there might be a need to undertake major construction. Who will spend for that?”

Biazon said if the Philippine government would have to spend, such as in the widening of an airstrip or construction of bigger ports, this would require Congress to appropriate funds for the purpose.

Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said EDCA would help the government’s disaster response efforts, particularly in times of calamities.

He said aside from strengthening military cooperation, EDCA seeks to promote maritime security and domain awareness as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

He said the government should look closely into the HADR aspect of the agreement.

“The government should put more emphasis on the disaster preparedness and response of this agreement. We should learn from their advanced logistical know-how so we can improve our capability,” he said.

Gatchalian pointed out that EDCA was signed a month before the onset of the rainy season. “The rainy season is only a month away and we cannot stop nature from creating another Yolanda. We must watch and learn from the US and make the most of what they can offer in terms of disaster response within the boundaries of the EDCA.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III joined his fellow senators in supporting the EDCA as a deterrent against acts of foreign aggression. – With Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy