FORT SAN FELIPE, Cavite City (Mabuhay) – Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin said they are hoping for “a very positive verdict” on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), especially in the light of the dispute with China over territories in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview on Monday, Gazmin said, “We are hoping for a very positive verdict on the EDCA. Malaki ang maitutulong ng EDCA in the sense that there will be joint use of facilities and use of equipment by both armed forces.”
The bilateral agreement was signed by the Philippines and the United States on April 28 last year.
Amid questions over the pact’s constitutionality brought before the Supreme Court, Gazmin earlier said Chinese vessels stopped harassing Filipino ships after the signing.
He once claimed that 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.
Gazmin also told reporters on Monday that China’s reclamation activities over disputed territories with the Philippines would not have happened if the US forces were still in the country.
This was in response to Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, who said that the return of US military bases in the country could help in the Philippines’ fight for the disputed territories.
“Alam mo sa totoo lang, kung hindi umalis ang Amerika, hindi tayo magkakaganito,” Gazmin told reporters at the sidelines of the Philippine Navy’s 117th anniversary celebration on Monday.
He added: “Dati ‘yung ating Bajo de Masinloc, dating impact area ng Philippine and US armed forces. Tapos ngayon inaangkin na nila (China). Kung hindi sila (US forces) umalis, hindi maaangkin ‘yon.”
Gazmin will meet with US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter later this week to discuss the situation in the West Philippine Sea, saying he would ask his counterpart about the extent of assistant the US may be able to offer the Philippines to counter China’s increasing aggressiveness in its claim. (MNS)