Gazmin cites enhanced military ties with US in calmer but disputed waters

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (Oct. 19, 2014) Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) participate in a 5K run sponsored by the Second Class Petty Officer Association during a port visit to Subic Bay Maritime Authority. Peleliu is on its final western Pacific deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region before decommissioning early next year. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Julianne Holland/Released)

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (Oct. 19, 2014) Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) participate in a 5K run sponsored by the Second Class Petty Officer Association during a port visit to Subic Bay Maritime Authority. Peleliu is on its final western Pacific deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region before decommissioning early next year. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Julianne Holland/Released)

MANILA, Dec 1 (Mabuhay) – Chinese vessels stopped harassing Filipino ships en route to the disputed Ayungin Shoal after the Philippines and the United States signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in April, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told a Senate committee on Monday.

Gazmin claimed that the EDCA—which provides for increased US military presence in the country and US access to Philippine military bases—was “a deterrent” against external security threats such as those presented by China.

“Right now, we use EDCA as a deterrent to threats to our security. As we continue using the EDCA, we continue to fill the gap [of our Armed Forces] through our modernization program,” Gazmin said during the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on the EDCA.

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., however, said the agreement didn’t provide did not guarantee the US assistance if the country came into a “shooting war” with another country.

“Why will an aggressive power be afraid to attack us?” Marcos said.

To which, Gazmin said, “The deterrence nangyayari na ngayon. Kita niyo hindi ho tayo inaatake sa pagresupply ang ating mga tropa sa Ayungin Shoal.”

Marcos, who has been at odds with the Aquino administration despite being part of the majority coalition in the Senate, didn’t agree with the defense secretary.

“I think that is due to the bravery of our own servicemen. I don’t think the Americans played a part, but never mind, that is your interpretation,” Marcos said.

In March, a Philippine Navy research vessel loaded with Philippine troops, supplies, and members of the media managed to reach Ayungin Shoal despite efforts by the Chinese Coast Guard to block it.

The Philippine Navy’s BRP Sierra Madre remains as the country’s outpost on the Ayungin Shoal.

A month after the alleged harassment, the Philippines and the US inked the EDCA on April 28.

Under the EDCA, the US will be allowed to build structures, store and preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years inside “agreed locations.”  (MNS)