MANILA - Fulfilling the Philippines' commitment and implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States will promote stability in the South China Sea and will do the incoming Duterte administration good, according to security experts.
Gregory Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said EDCA is vital to the security of the Philippines and the US fulfilling its commitment to protect international law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
China, Taiwan, Philippines and 3 other Asian nations have been at odds over the vital waterway, which hosts $5 trillion in sea-borne trade annually. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, even waters approaching the coastlines of other nations.
Poling said that the Philippines will attain minimum credible defense in the near- to medium-term with the help of the US through EDCA.
He, however, said that if the agreement is not implemented, the US will have a tough time challenging Chinese claims as the number of Chinese forces in the region balloons. This is aggravated by the continuous structure-building on China's artificial islands in the Spratlys.
Poling said the EDCA agreement can also be used and called upon during times of disasters.
'PH MAY LOSE FACE'
Prof. Renato C. De Castro, convener of the National Security and East Asian Affairs Program of the Alberto Del Rosario Institute, said EDCA can serve as a deterrent to Chinese expansion and can be used as leverage in eventual bilateral talks with Beijing.
He said that it would be wise for the incoming Duterte administration to wait for the decision of a United Nations-backed tribunal on the row before it proceeds with bilateral talks with China.
The Hague-based tribunal is set to release its decision in the next few weeks.
De Castro also warned that the Philippines will lose face and credibility if the EDCA is not honored and fulfilled by the incoming administration.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario believes that the incoming administration, based on its pronouncements, will fulfill its commitment and agreement with the United States on EDCA.
He said t the Philippines should pursue bilateral talks with China only after the tribunal has decided on the Philippine submission.
The EDCA is an agreement between the US and the Philippines which allows the US to rotate troops in the Philippines for extended stays. It also permits the US to build and operate facilities on Philippine bases for both American and Philippine forces.
It was signed in April 2014 but had faced legal hurdles. In January 2016, the Supreme Court declared it to be constitutional.
Incoming foreign affairs chief Perfecto Yasay said the Duterte administration will wait for the tribunal to rule on the case before talking to China.