MANILA - United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg said Philippine sovereignty and laws will be paramount as both countries enter into further discussions and iron out details on the recently forged Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
In an interview with ANC, Goldberg said: “We take very seriously our respect for the Philippines, the sovereignty of the Philippines. We will do everything in our power to make sure all Philippine laws are observed.”
The EDCA, which allows American soldiers greater access to limited military bases in the country, was signed on Monday ahead of US President Barack Obama's 2-day state visit.
In describing the new defense pact, Obama said: “American forces can begin rotating through Filipino airfields and ports. We’ll train and exercise together more to bring our militaries even closer, and to support your efforts to strengthen your armed forces. We’ll improve our ability to respond even faster to disasters like Yolanda.”
Goldberg said the EDCA was derived from the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
He said the EDCA will also be carried out through provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which has been ratified by the Senate and upheld by the Supreme Court.
“I understand the sensitivities, but we have an agreement on how we will handle such things,” he said.
This is also the reason why he can’t give a timeline for the completion of the annexes of the EDCA. He also can’t say which bases will be tapped, or the number of US troops that will stay in these locations.
“It has to be in the mutual interest of both countries. The Philippines has a say at every step along the way,” he said.
He said, for example, that there certain areas in Olongapo that are off-limits to American soldiers. “But there are areas where they can go such as the cultural and historic [sites].”
He said Filipinos have the right to raise their concerns against the EDCA.
He said the rebalancing of US interests in the Asia Pacific is a way forward for both nations.
“I know we need to be informed of the past and we’re sensitive to that,” he said.
With EDCA, militants raised fears of a repeat of the Daniel Smith rape case in Subic.
Civil society groups, led by former Senate President Jovito Salonga, questioned the VFA, following a move to detain Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in the United States Embassy while his rape case was ongoing at the Court of Appeals.
Smith was later acquitted and moved back to the US.