MANILA – Former Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima is glad that the Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.
De Lima, who was a member of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission in her capacity as Secretary of Justice, said, “The Supreme Court correctly ruled that the EDCA is just an implementing executive agreement of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, and therefore is not a separate treaty that needs the ratification of the Senate to become effective and binding between the two Pacific allies.”
De Lima said that the Supreme Court case against EDCA is the final hurdle towards an expansive cooperation between the Philippines and the US that is focused on the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) capabilities, systems, and logistics, aside from ensuring constant coordination between the two countries’ armed forces as they face common security and defense challenges in the Pacific, including the West Philippine Sea.
“The EDCA is a much-needed boost to the existing VFA in modernizing our armed forces’ capabilities and equipment, as the AFP is further exposed to training and orientation on state-of-the-art weapon technologies and systems that the United States Armed Forces is expected to bring in under the terms of the expanded arrangements for hosting US forces in Philippine-controlled military bases,” De Lima said.
“More importantly, the agreement will definitely facilitate US assistance in disaster-response and relief and rescue operations in times of natural and man-made disasters,” she added.
The Liberal Party senatorial candidate noted that “in terms of security, defense, and disaster-response assistance, the plus points of EDCA far outweigh any negative impact as projected by those who oppose it. In any case, there are sufficient safeguards against such incidents that may occur as feared by certain groups.”
She also said that, while there is no “full-proof guarantee” that the new arrangement will not result in any unwanted incidents, “such possibilities should not prevent us from engaging in improved military alliances with the US in the interest of our own national security, even as we continue to modernize our own capabilities under the AFP modernization program.”
De Lima stressed that with the effectivity of EDCA, “the government should now, more than ever, prioritize its AFP modernization programs as the only real guarantee against foreign threats on our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Let us not forget that the real objective of all these alliance arrangements is to finally wean us from dependence on foreign military presence with a truly modernized AFP capable of defending our country on its own,” she pointed out.
“Time will come that although alliances will remain, the AFP should have achieved that level of modernization and systems capability that would no longer necessitate the presence of foreign military forces on Philippine soil,” she explained.
“That, after all, is our real objective: a more than credible defense posture capable of securing our air, our waters, and land territory on our own, with minimal presence of the US as a military ally, if any at all would still be needed when that time comes,” the former Justice secretary said.