MANILA, Apr 28 (Mabuhay) – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday called the new defense agreement between the Philippines and the United States a “milestone” pact that elevates the long-time allies’ defense partnership.
A product of nearly two years of planning and negotiations, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg a few hours before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama, who makes his last stop in Manila today following a week-long Asian tour that includes Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Philippines.
“The EDCA elevates to a higher plane of engagement our already robust defense alliance, a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” Del Rosario said in a statement.
“It provides new momentum for our partnership and opens up fresh avenues of bilateral cooperation,” he added.
EDCA expands the coverage of the existing Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 by Manila and Washington and the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.
It allows an increased but non-permanent presence of American troops to the country and access to designated Philippine military facilities.
The agreement is also designed to strengthen the ill-equipped Philippine military for external defense, maritime security and maritime domain awareness amid heightened concerns over China’s actions in the disputed South China Sea.
Philippine officials assured that all activities under the EDCA are covered by the Philippine Constitution.
The accord also grants the U.S. military the right to pre-position its equipment, vessels and aircraft as it ruled out permanent basing and entry of nuclear weapons.
It likewise highlights enhanced cooperation on disaster response as demonstrated by the US’ prompt assistance to the Philippines when it was battered by super typhoon “Yolanda” in November of last year.
“With the rapidly evolving regional architecture and domestic realities, our dynamic and forward-looking partnership attaches great importance in enhancing our individual and collective self-defense capabilities, strengthening maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and improving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacities,” Del Rosario said.
He stressed that the “valuable components of a responsible and responsive security engagement” will benefit both countries and “contribute to regional and international security and stability.”
“With the EDCA, the Philippines and the United States as sovereign allies have written a new chapter for our modern and mature partnership, firmly grounded on deeply-held democratic values, common interests and shared aspirations,” Del Rosario said. (MNS)