Friday, October 07, 2016

US Embassy: Relationship with PHL one of the most important, enduring in Asia Pacific

The United States Embassy in Manila said the US' relationship with the Philippines is one of the most important and enduring in the Asia Pacific region.
In an email to GMA News' Sandra Aguinaldo, Molly Koscina, press attaché of the US Embassy said, "Our relationship with the Philippines is broad and our alliance is one of the most enduring and important relationships in the Asia Pacific region."
Koscina's comment came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end the Enhanced Cooperation and Defense Agreement (EDCA) with the US, saying it does not have a presidential signature and that US forces may be asked to leave the Philippines soon

The EDCA, signed by the Philippines and the US in 2015, is an executive agreement, not a treaty that requires Senate ratification.
The agreement supports previous agreements between the two countries, such as the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.
But ‎Koscina said that, "We have not been officially contacted by Philippine authorities regarding President Duterte’s statements."
Asked about the number of US troops currently stationed in the Philippines, Koscina said: "The number of US forces in the Philippines fluctuates in consultation with the government of the Philippines and as missions require."
"Because the US military does not maintain a permanent presence in the Philippines, you will see a periodic rotation of troops based on operational requirements," she added.
Despite Duterte's pronouncement, Koscina said: "We continue to focus on our relationship with the Philippines and we’re going to continue to work together in many areas of mutual interest to help improve the livelihoods of the Philippine people and to uphold our shared democratic values." 
"It has been a cornerstone of stability for over 70 years. It’s built on shared sacrifices for democracy and human rights, and strong people-to-people and societal ties, and obviously we’d like to see that continue," she added.
The EDCA, entered into by the administration of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in 2014, allows the US to build structures and store weapons and defense supplies in the Philippines for 10 years.  
It can be renewed, either by the US or the Philippines, with one year's written notice.
Malacañang had said EDCA supports the implementation of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), signed by the two countries almost 65 years ago in Washington on August 30, 1951.
Under the MDT, the two countries pledged defense support for each other, declaring their "common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone in the Pacific area."
The Philippines was a colony of the US from 1898 to 1946.
The entry and temporary stay of US personnel to the Philippines is allowed under EDCA. In contrast, under the 1998 VFA, the entry and visit of US military personnel is only allowed for joint US-Philippine military exercises. 
Petitioners against EDCA, which include among others, former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, had warned that the agreement would grant the US “carte blanche power to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one.” 
Veronica Pulumbarit/RSJ, GMA News

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