On 70th US-PH Day : Progressive groups urge Duterte to stop EDCA

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‘Take a different stand from Yasay’

YOUTH GROUPS marched to the United States (US) Embassy today to mark the  70th Filipino-American Friendship Day and protest the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and other military agreements with the US.

The protest action also responded to new Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay’s statement that the Philippines will not stop its implementation of the EDCA under the Duterte administration.

“The Philippines is still committed to the EDCA and that there is no longer a room for reviewing the said pact with the United States,” Yasay was quoted saying.

According to protesters from the League of Filipino Students (LFS), they are hoping that Pres. Duterte will have stand different from that of the DFA secretary. They noted the president’s previous statements that the Philippines will not rely on the US in foreign policy making and that he will “chart a course of our own.”

The EDCA, which was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, allows the US military to travel, build infrastructure, and hold joint trainings in so-called agreed locations in the Philippines. EDCA supporters led by then Pres. Aquino said the agreement was a “necessary” answer to the territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

Activists, meanwhile, called the EDCA another unequal treaty meant to enhance the US’s geopolitical power in the region and a “treachery” that allows the return of US military bases in the country. “The US itself had declared that they will not come to the aid of the Philippines should the dispute with China turn into war,” said the protesters.

US-PH relations: “It’s not friendship”

The relationship between the Philippines and United States had always been far from being “friends”, according to LFS national chairperson JP Rosos. “In reality, it is an exploitative and oppressive connection similar to a colonizer-colony relationship,” he said.

The protest action on July 4 was also a condemnation of US foreign policy in Asia. According to the protesters, the US has taken advantage of the territorial dispute between Philippines and China to advance its vested interests. As Rosos pointed out, “The EDCA, signed with the territorial dispute with China as pretext, will only make the Philippines a military outpost for the US’ rebalancing or pivot to East Asia.”

The protesters added that the last 70 years of US-Philippine relations has seen the advancement of US interests through the unequal agreements such as the EDCA. This is despite the explicit constitutional provision against foreign military presence in the country.

Youth groups at the US embassy: US-Philippine friendship a "big myth". Photo from LFS website
Youth groups at the US embassy: US-Philippine friendship a “big myth”. Photo from LFS website

Article XVIII, Section 25, of the Philippine Constitution states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

Meanwhile, Bagong  Alyansang  Makabayan (BAYAN) called on the Duterte Administration to halt the implementation of unequal military agreements like the EDCA. Such agreements jeopardize the country’s sovereignty and put our people’s welfare at risk, the multi-sectoral group said.

“Malacanang and the DFA should review the arrangements entered into by the Aquino government, especially those arrangements entered into during the last 100 days of the Aquino regime,” according to Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.

The groups noted that Supreme Court decision on EDCA also it as a mere executive agreement supplemental to the existing Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The president still has the power to abolish executive agreements made during the Aquino administration, the protesters urged.

Report by Danielle Isaac and Wowie Tubije

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