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New deal doesn’t guarantee US help in PHL dispute with China – analyst

Posted On 2014 Apr 30
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President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III participate in a bilateral meeting at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (MNS photo)

President Barack Obama, left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III participate in a bilateral meeting at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines, Monday, April 28, 2014. Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improve armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Will the US defend the Philippines in a military confrontation?

Based on historical precedent, and even with the newly signed EDCA, it is unlikely, according to a UP academic who has written several books on Philippine-US relations.

UP professor Roland Simbulan said the possibility of the US extending military aid to the Philippines in case of an armed conflict with China over disputed territories might just be a misconception.

Akala natin tutulungan tayo ng US ‘pag nagka-problema tayo, pero sa totoo lang, based on experience, hindi nila tayo matutulungan when worse comes to worst,” he said.

Simbulan cited as an example the US government’s supposed refusal to enforce the Mutual Defense Treaty in the late 1960s when the Philippines was locked in a territorial dispute with Malaysia over Sabah.

“Noong tinanong ng ating mga lider ang US kung maga-apply ba dito ‘yung Mutual Defense Treaty, ang sabi ng US, hindi kasi ally nila ang Malaysia. Ang [idea ng] automatic na pagtulong ng US sa atin ay maaring ilusyon lang natin,” he said.

On Monday morning, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama for his first ever state visit to the Philippines.

The pact, which was finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels.

But the 10-year accord rules out permanent basing, as the Philippine Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.

Simbulan said the Philippine government should train its sights on upgrading the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) even as it signed the EDCA.

Masyado tayong nakasandal sa US para sa ating external defense. Ang resulta nito, napabayaan na nating i-improve [ang AFP]… Dapat tayo mismo ang mag-build up ang ating external defense capability,” he said.

Ramon Casiple, political analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, however, believes the military stands to benefit once the new defense accord takes effect.

“EDCA is necessary to send a strong signal that the US-PH alliance is a major security factor to deter threats and modernize AFP. Congress may review it but it’s operational [since] it’s an executive agreement,” he said.

In 2012, President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10349, otherwise known as the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act, which aims to keep the Philippines’ military organization at par other countries’ artillery. (MNS)

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