Solon to seek House inquiry into the US-PH bilateral defense guidelines

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2023 09:18 PM

MANILA - Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc plan to call for a House inquiry into the bilateral defense guidelines between the Philippines and the United States, they said Thursday.

The Bilateral Defense Guidelines, which seek to deepen the interoperability of Manila and Washington through enhanced bilateral planning, information sharing and collaboration on emerging security challenges, were established amid increased tension in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine Coast Guard had said that some 100 Chinese ships remained at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) in the West Philippine Sea, over a week since they were first monitored in the area.

ACT Teachers Party List Rep. France Castro said they will file a house resolution to look into the guidelines, which she believes expands the agreements in the original mutual defense treaty between the US and the Philippines.

“Isinama na talaga, any attack in the South China Sea, whether attack sa coast guard, any attack ay pwedeng makialam ang US. Doon sa… pagba-budget ng ating defense ay pakikialaman din ng US. Pakikialaman ng US ang pagbili ng armas ng Pilipinas within 5 years,” she said at the Pandesal Forum in Quezon City.

"Dapat paimbestigahan. Ginawa itong guidelines na ito, itong agreement na ito, parang secret. Dapat kinonsult muna ito sa Senate,” she added.

International League of People’s Struggle General Secretary and former lawmaker Liza Maza called the guidelines a “complete sellout” of Philippine sovereignty.

She said it could raise legal and constitutional questions.

“‘Yung mutual defense treaty ang malinaw doon, kung mayroong actual attack, armed attack. Pero dito, pwede na rin sila makialam in terms of information sharing at saka 'yung mga planning kung mayroon lang threats ng armed attack at indications na may threat,” Maza said.

“Ito ay page-expand, pagbo-broaden, pago-overreach ng mutual defense treaty at ng iba pang military agreements that we have right now with the United States. Mayroong diyan nakalagay, may mga consultations and bilateral planning na gagawin between the US and the Philippines kaugnay ng strategic planning ng security and defense. Kung ikaw ay isang independent state, bakit mo io-open ang strategic security and defense plan mo sa ibang bansa?” she added.

“Ito na ‘yata ang pinaka-toxic relationship na pwede nating sabihin… This is a complete sellout of our national independence and sovereignty,” the former solon noted.

University of the Philippines Professor Roland Simbulan asked whether the MDT can be amended to include additional details through an executive agreement.

He also expressed concern over the expansion of the EDCA sites in the country, saying the country may be used as a “springboard” for US military operations in the region.

“Ang nakakatakot dito sa EDCA US bases, malinaw at lantaran na bahagi ito sa stratehiya ng US, ‘yung island chain of defense niya na nagmumula sa US bases sa Japan, South Korea, Taiwan at ngayon ‘yung Philippines. Island chain of defense for containment and encirclement of China. This is really a very provocative move in the light of clear violation of the 1975 Shanghai communique, in relation to the issue of Taiwan," Simbulan said.

"China has made it clear that as far as the Taiwan issue is concerned, this is an internal affair issue between China and Taiwan, and any move by any foreign power to intervene will be matched by China. ‘Yun din ang pinaghahandaan ng China. Unfortunately, ang Pilipinas dahil nagpasama sa island, pinormalisa pa natin, tayo talaga ay madadamay, unfortunately,” he added.

Fisherfolk Group PAMALAKAYA also opposes the EDCA sites and Balikatan exercises with the US, saying it may provoke China and put Filipino fishermen at risk.

“Ito ay magiging dahilan para sa probokasyon ng China na pwedeng maipit kaming mangingisda. At lalong mang-harass ang Chinese government, partikular sa West Philippine Sea. ‘Yun ang aming ikinababahala, kaya tutol kami dito sa EDCA at Balikatan exercises,” PAMALAKAYA Spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said.

Castro urged the government to de-escalate the tension in the West Philippine Sea and de-militarize the area.

She also proposed to increase coast guard patrols in the disputed waters and launch joint patrols with the coast guards of other claimant countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).


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