Osmena blasts weak provisions in EDCA

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 13 2014 05:02 PM | Updated as of May 16 2014 05:45 PM

MANILA - Sen. Sergio Osmeña on Tuesday said he wants Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to explain the provisions of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States after expressing dissatisfaction with the explanation of Philippine negotiators.

Speaking to reporters, Osmeña said he asked the Philippine panel to explain certain provisions in EDCA and why this was not brought to the Senate for ratification.

In particular, he questioned why Philippine negotiators gave a guarantee to US forces that they can use certain frequencies in the Philippines for telecommunications.

"Normally, that is a franchise that is granted by Congress. Their answer was [the US] would use frequencies assigned to the Armed Forces of the Philippines," he said.

He also sought clarification on why the EDCA did not elaborate on the clean-up of facilities used by US forces in the country. He noted that Philippine authorities found toxic waste at the former US bases in Clark, Pampanga and Subic, Zambales after the Americans left.

"The provision on the building of facilities such as refueling and bunkering is very weak. That is where dangerous wastes come from. There's no real and tight provision on clean-up and remediation," he said.

During Tuesday's hearing, Osmeña also grilled the panel on the circumstances surrounding a provision that there will be no permanent US military presence under the deal.

He pointed out that military personnel are always rotated in an assigned location and this provision was only crafted for the deal to be justified.

The senator refused to call the EDCA as one-sided. He also said he backs the Philippines' military alliance with the United States "because the United States has maintained stability in our region for about 70 years."

"They have been very benign about it, they have not been bullies, they don't force their way into any situation in favor of a country. We're very comfortable with that, and I believe the Philippines should also contribute its share in ensuring peace and stability in our region," he said.

The EDCA, which was signed just before the state visit of US President Barack Obama last April 28, allows American soldiers greater access to Philippine military bases.

It is seen as an important pillar of the country’s regional security policy as well as an effective response mechanism to humanitarian and natural disasters.

Lawmakers have expressed apprehension over the lack of congressional involvement in the agreement.