PH panel: We did not sell out during EDCA talks

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2014 10:58 AM | Updated as of May 01 2014 07:28 PM

MANILA - The negotiating panel for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) denied Thursday that the deal with the US government is shrouded in secrecy.

In an interview on ANC's Headstart, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, chairman of the panel, said they sent out reports to both houses of Congress after each round of negotiations.

He said Senator Antonio Trillanes even asked for an executive session with the panel before the negotiations started.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya, a member of the panel, said that just like in any kind of negotiation, there has to be some degree of confidentiality.

"If you're very open to the entire world, you're practically not negotiating with the other side. Negotiation is a give-and-take process. If your position is all out there, it's very difficult to give in...because people might be saying are you selling out. Of course we did not," he said.

The Philippine panel also asserted they made sure the country will not be at the losing end of the deal.

Batino said anything the US military builds automatically becomes Philippine property.

The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces will also have access to US facilities, dispelling any notion of exclusivity of US forces.

Batino said any infrastructure constructed by the US will belong to the Philippine government including expansion of runways, storage depots and deepening of naval ports.

"We're looking at the possibility of the US constructing some facilities like hangers, barracks...this would greatly benefit the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program because part of it is bases development, though we have allocated P75 billion for modernization. This is for procurement of modern defense equipment, thus support of United States with regards to bases development would be very helpful," he said.

The panel said the Philippine side insisted on a provision that states the US should give preference to acquiring Philippine goods and supplies to promote the country's economic interest.

"We need to be fair with the US. After all, they will be the ones paying for this procurement. But in the choice of the contractor, preference will be given to the Philippine contractor. Before any construction begins, the project proposal will have to be approved by the Philippine side so if there's any construction we do not like, the AFP can say no," Malaya said.

The panel said the EDCA also contains a provision that the US is accountable for any environmental contamination in case of an accidental spill.

"If you would check comparable access agreements of the US with other countries, the provisions there are more vague. But here it is very clear that if ever there is a spill, they have to take care of it because it's a 'clean up as you go' concept and they assured us that they have very strict environmental guidelines for their military," Malaya said.

"They made specific commitment that should there be a need for compensation, they will address that too."