Duterte bucks Edca, but is willing to honor it
SHOULD he be elected president, expect Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy to be critical, if not lukewarm, toward the United States.
Speaking for the Davao City mayor, his running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano voiced Duterte’s position on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), the 10-year military agreement with the United States that was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Addressing the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines at its annual business forum dubbed “Arangkada” on Tuesday, Cayetano said Edca does not assure that the United States will defend the Philippines from China in a confrontation in the South China Sea.
Edca allows US troops to rotate through the country and grants them access to Philippine military bases. In return, the United States is to help modernize the Philippines’ armed forces and build up its military infrastructure and facilities.
The agreement has been challenged by Filipino left-wing groups who fear the return of American bases to the country.
“The Americans has known about intrusions by the Chinese into the West Philippine Sea [South China Sea], but they only talked about it in the last few years,” Cayetano said.
Obama assured Japan
He noted that US President Barack Obama during his state visit to the Philippines in 2014 gave a “generic” response to the question of whether the United States would come to the defense of the Philippines against China.
Obama—just after he had said in Japan that the United States would stand by the Japanese in defending their territory in the East China Sea against China—did not make a categorical statement with regard to the Philippines, Cayetano said.
“We gave Edca for free,” Cayetano said, noting that when it was signed by both countries, compensation for the use of Philippine military bases was not guaranteed.
Nevertheless, Cayetano said, Duterte would still want to continue with Edca but “from a position of strength.”
“We will be decisive. And in the planning itself, we will know what equipment and technology will given or loaned to us,” Cayetano said.
He said Duterte capitalizes on self-sufficiency.
“Even if the United States is our friend and ally, we won’t depend on them completely,” he said.
Cayetano said the Philippines must weigh its national interest and align itself with the United States only if “the US’ national interest aligns with ours.”
In previous speeches and interviews, Duterte expressed his willingness to set aside the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea if China helps the country build a railway system.
He said earlier he was open to entering into a joint exploration partnership with China for oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea provided that China dropped its sea claims.
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