Marcos urges review of EDCA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — A lawmaker is seeking a review of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US over its possible violation on the constitutional ban on foreign bases.

Senator Imee Marcos filed Monday Senate Resolution 299 calling for the review.

“The EDCA has made the United States troops a permanent presence in the Philippine territory, clearly conflicting with the constitutional mandates of sovereignty and treaty ratification,” she said in the resolution.

The proposed EDCA review comes after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to pull out of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which has provisions on relaxed visa and passport policies for US troops and rights of the US government to retain jurisdiction over military personnel.

Marcos said scrapping the VFA may lead to the release of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide over the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, ahead of serving his full prison sentence.

She also said that without the VFA, the Philippines will be deprived of jurisdiction over US military personnel who commit crimes in the country.

US citizens who commit crimes in the Philippines have to face investigation, trial and punishment under the local legal system.

The VFA only provides that the US immediately retains its custody over its military personnel who are accused of crimes. The Philippines can request the US to turn over custody of its military personnel.

The Philippine government is now working on the process of terminating the VFA, after Duterte’s threat to scrap the 1998 deal over the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s US visa.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario warned Sunday that the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty — another agreement with the US which provides that it will aid the Philippines in the event of a foreign attack on its metropolitan areas or in the Pacific — will be more difficult.

Assistance of the US military in times of calamity would also be harder without the VFA, del Rosario said.

What is EDCA?

EDCA is an executive agreement between the US and the Philippines that complements the VFA. It allows the US military to conduct security cooperation exercises, joint and combined training with the Philippines, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and other activities agreed to between both sides.

EDCA also grants the US access to agreed locations without rental or similar fees, with the US only having to cover operational expenses. The agreement grants the US operational control over five bases across the country.

“EDCA should be terminated because it indirectly allows the United States military to skirt the constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines and makes the country a potential target of America’s adversaries,” Marcos said in her resolution.

Article XVIII, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution provides that foreign military bases, troops and facilities are banned in the Philippines except under a treaty ratified by the Senate, and if required by Congress ratified in a referendum.

The late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago argued that the Senate needed to concur in the agreement, which she considered to be a treaty, but the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that it is just an executive agreement which does not require the nod of the upper chamber.