Press Release
October 26, 2016

PH must fill logistical void that EDCA scrapping would leave

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said he will "not oppose" President Duterte's plan to "in effect, mothball the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)" but the Philippines should be ready to "finance and fill" whatever "logistical void" is left by American troops.

"The vacuum will be felt more in disaster relief operations because in many typhoons in the past, Americans have been the first responders, even sending entire carrier battle groups to help in rescue and reconstruction," Recto said.

"And in this era of climate change, with its powerful typhoons, we need all the help we can get due to our lack of resources to airlift aid to damaged places," he said.

Recto said Duterte's statement that he would "not want to see any military man of any other nation except for the Philippine soldier" in the country should not be read by other nations as "a signal that their troops, even in mercy missions, are no longer allowed to set foot here."

"If Duterte's latest announcement morphs into policy, the government should be able to make the distinction, that while it no longer welcomes foreign boots on the ground to fight our wars, it would welcome them still if they're from workmen doing non-security chores," Recto said.

"There's an element of internationalism in doing calamity relief so it is hoped that Duterte's self-reliant defense posture should not dampen the desire of other countries to send their troops to help us in our time of need," Recto said.

On EDCA, Recto said his position from Day One is to have it ratified by the Senate. "And I have issued statements, signed reports and voted for a resolution that the consent of the Senate must first be secured to make it binding."

"There was a proper way in doing it, but the Senate was bypassed, and I think one of the reasons for EDCA's vulnerability is that it did not get the seal of approval of an institution that was supposed to ratify it," he explained.

Recto said EDCA's "sidelining" will not radically alter US-Philippine relations. "EDCA sprang from the US-PH Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951 and the Visiting Forces Agreement. It is the offspring of these two pacts. And we're not abrogating them."

Recto said many quarters believe that the objective of the MDT "can be advanced sans EDCA."

In the event of EDCA's downgrading, Recto said it will be up to the diplomatic skills of Duterte officials to negotiate the retention of EDCA's "humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR)" component.

"EDCA allows the 'storage and prepositioning of HADR equipment, supplies and material.' It is to our country's benefit that such an arrangement will continue to be in force," he said.

In the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, the US military sent the USS George Washington carrier strike group, dispatched 13,400 personnel including Marines in two ships, deployed 66 aircraft and 12 other ships.

In June 2008, the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group also parked itself in the Visayan Sea to bring aid to victims of typhoon Frank.

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