Congress to look into Philippines-US defense pact

by Ria de Fiesta,

Posted at Apr 29 2014 11:46 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2014 07:46 AM

MANILA – Rep. Al Francis Bichara, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said the US will definitely be on the Philippines' side in case there is an external threat to the country.

"It’s not going to be an outright confrontation. They [US] will have to undergo constitutional procedure… present this to US Congress and the UN Security Council before they make a decision. But definitely, they will defend our position," Bichara told ANC Prime Time on Tuesday.

According to Bichara, there will be a hearing set by the House Foreign Relations Committee regarding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which was signed between the Philippines and the US.

"We have scheduled a committee hearing on this matter, to brief members of the committee regarding the EDCA," he said.

Bichara said there will be questions directly asked to the concerned agencies – the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense – on some "vague" issues.

"Everybody should have access to this document. Some will be asking questions, and they have to clarify some vague issues. Everybody has released statements regarding their doubts about this agreement. Most of the issues were already printed in the papers," he said.

The EDCA was signed by US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin hours before US President Barack Obama's arrival in Manila on Monday.

According to Goldberg, the EDCA is based on the key principles and shared values of commitment to democratic government and international; mutuality of benefits for both nations; respect for Philippine sovereignty over all locations covered under the agreement; and the understanding that the US does not intend to establish a permanent military presence in the Philippines.

"They’re not basing here. According to them, there’s no permanent base, we have jurisdiction over those camps, no rental, nothing. It’s just accessibility to military camps of our armed forces," Bichara said.

Asked about the possibility of the Philippines being part of the Trans Pacific Partnership amid its defense agreement with the US, Bichara said: "The President makes the last call, makes the final decision on the matter."