Bayan Muna Partylist representative, Neri Javier Colmenares calls the newly signed military pact Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between Washington and Manila, ‘unconstitutional’ violating many provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution regarding foreign military presence, nuclear arms, and court jurisdiction.
In an interview, Colmenares stressed that the Aquino government has railroaded the signing of the pact and has not submitted the document to any legislative body such as the Congress. “This EDCA is an agreement between Mendiola and Washington, this is not an agreement between the people of the Philippines and of the United States,” said Colmenares. The progressive partylist will also bring the concern to the Philippine Supreme Court and International Court.
The agreement underlines the expanded military ties of thePhilippines with Washington’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific as what Former US State Secretary Hillary Clinton called “where the future of politics will be decided.” The pivot is primarily driven by the shift of market and investment area of the US and other advanced capitalist countries in maximizing profit in the emerging region which would be crucial to the US’s efforts at economic recovery.
According to think-tank IBON Foundation, “The US recognizes that the vitality of many sectors of American economy depends increasingly on the ability of US firms to tap opportunities in the growing Asia-Pacific region where markets provide unprecedented opportunities for investment and trade as well as growing demand for cutting-edge US technology.” It can be remembered that the US has been steadily laying the groundwork for a reinvigorated American economic clout in Asia since 2001 and most especially under the Obama administration. At the recent Asia-PacificEconomic Cooperation summit in Hawaii, President Obama secured support for the US economic scheme Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to enhance the US trade and investment with the region. Thus, “US’s increasing economic interests in Asia necessitate the refocusing of US military projection in the region,” according to IBON.
“It is a blatant violation of the Constitution. According to the Constitution no foreign troops, bases, or facilities shall be allowed entry into the Philippines without a treaty signed by the Philippines and the other country. Even though, say it is not a base, but those the US have right now in the country are still military facilities which is in clear violation of the Constitution,” said Colmenares laying out his points regarding the legality of the new US-PH military accord. The solon believes that the EDCA should have been submitted to Congress for rigorous review and scrutiny for it to become legally binding. “First is that they cannot use the argument that the EDCA need not pass through the Congress because the agreement signed is already under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between Washington and Manila. The MDT has been signed on 1951 and its effectiveness has already been changed by the more recent 1987 Constitution.” The Philippines once hosted two of the largest off-shore US bases until the Philippine legislature and a popular anti-US sentiment terminated the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 effectively evicting US troops and their bases on Philippine soil. Colmenares also added the threat of nuclear arms in Philippine territory with the EDCA thus violating the Nuclear-Free Philippines provision of the Constitution. “Surely all of the American facilities, their ships and planes have nuclear weapons. Not only does it violate the charter but it is also a threat to the Filipinos; if there would be an accident, will the Aquino government be able to contain and mitigate the contamination? They don’t even have a contamination plan. They can’t even handle Yolanda how much more a nuclear accident which is highly probable to happen,” said Colmenares.
EDCA an advantage against territorial spat with China
Another member of the Congress though see the EDCA as a landmark defense pact between US and the Philippines, which is a step in ensuring the protection of Philippine territory in the South China Sea amid simmering tensions between Manila and Beijing. Manila and Beijing are currently at odds over particular territories in the South China Sea and most recently the Second Thomas Shoal. In recent months relationship between the two countries deteriorated with a more aggressive stance from Beijing on its claims. The maritime tussle has led to an anti-China sentiment in the Philippines which Bayan Muna see as an issue Washington exploits. Iloilo representative Jerry Trenas said that “(EDCA) is a necessary step to ensure that we can really count on the United States in the event that the conflict in disputed areas in the West Philippine sea escalates. The mere presence of the US military in the Philippines can be considered already as a deterrent against any armed offensive in our territories now being the object of China’s land grabbing binge,” said Trenas in a statement. The solon from central philippines also added that the pact is a simple expansion of the MDT therefore, it will no longer require ratification of Congress.
Colmenares believes otherwise. “America will not wage war against China nor will it take any action whatsoever if it is not for its own benefit. Do we really think that US will help us? China has already occupied the Scarborough shoal, has US done anything? None. We should stand by our sovereignty, we should fight the incursions done by China on our territory but the solution to that is seeking help from multi-lateral agencies or bodies like UNCLOS or Tribunal, ASEAN or the International community. Never should we enter bilateral relations with America; we all know that if America would help there would always be another agenda. Look at Iraq, they said they will attack to help oust Saddam Hussein but years have gone since Saddam died, US troops are still in Iraq. Why? Because it is not to help that they really wanted but to gain trillions of profit from oil-rich Iraq.”
Nathaniel Santiago of MAKABAYAN Party, the party-alliance of progressive partylists in Congress which Bayan Muna is aligned added that “US has a bigger interest in China than that to the Philippines especially on economic terms. US owes China 1.22 Trillion US dollars, is the Philippines a creditor to US? The economic trade between Beijing and Washington is enormous; in 2012 alone the trade worth of two countries reached 579 Billion dollars. How about the Philippines? a meager 17.6 billion dollars only of import and export trade worth between Manila and US. The trade between US and China is 30 times bigger than that of the trade between the former and the Philippines. Most US trans-national companies are also based in China more than anywhere else in the world, 515 of the biggest US firms are also in China. Does that mean that US will wage war with China for us and lose that enormous amount of money flowing on their trade? Washington will only use its strategic military position in the Philippines to have leverage with economic concessions that it will ask Beijing.”
The US has sustained its position as the most dominant foreign interest in the Philippines for almost 70 years now since giving the country its nominal independence through maintaining a patron-client relationship. As IBON adds, “The basic relationship between a colonizer and its colony is the same foundation on which increased US intervention is being built in the context of Obama’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific.”
“Let us evict the American troops, and American bases in our land, we have already done that before and we will still be able to do the same. Evict the US troops now,” culminated Colmenares.