23 September 2015

No plans to invite US military back to Subic – Palace

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has no plans to invite the United States military back to Subic Bay in Zambales on a permanent basis just to provide a foil to the Chinese threat, as doing so would violate the Constitution, Malacañang said (yesterday).

In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government is fully aware of the constitutional provision banning foreign military bases and troops in the country.

“And we never do anything that is against the Constitution or laws of the government,” Coloma said.

In April last year, the US and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to complement the two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement.

He added the information on the Obama administration allegedly rejecting a $300-million military aid for the Philippines would need to be clarified as well.

“We are ready to give an explanation if they will be able to show that their statement has basis,” Coloma said.

A New York Times News Service report said the 10-year EDCA would set the stage for an American return to several facilities, including the Subic Bay naval base and Clark Air Base.

The agreement has been questioned before the Supreme Court for allegedly being unconstitutional.

Senators also want to ratify the agreement, saying it is a treaty. But this position runs counter to the stand of the executive branch that the EDCA merely implements earlier agreements between the US and the Philippines, particularly the MDT and the VFA.

The executive branch also defends its constitutionality and points out that EDCA will only provide access and use of Philippine military facilities, and that any US military presence will be “at the invitation of the Philippines and with full respect for the Philippine Constitution and Philippine laws.”

Officials also noted the constitutional provision which prohibits the establishment of “foreign military bases… or facilities” in the country – except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate – does not apply to EDCA.

In January, it was reported that the US lifted restrictions on a small portion of its military assistance to the Philippines that was withheld over human rights concerns.

The gesture affects about $15 million withheld over the last five years, a fraction of Washington’s total military assistance to the Philippines.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the aid restriction was lifted “sometime last year”but did not explain why it was lifted.

US Assistant Defense Secretary David Shear also earlier said that Washington had provided $300 million in military-related assistance since 2001 and would provide another $40 million in 2015 as part of America’s support to modernize the poorly equipped Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region. (Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star)

PHOTO: Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. addresses reporters during a press conference in Malacañang.