By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez (File photo)

MANILA – Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez questioned China over its opposition to the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), citing Beijing’s own incursions into the country’s waters.

In a CNN interview on Tuesday, Romualdez said it is China that is “creating tension in our territory in the Ayungin Shoal and many parts” of Philippine waters.

“We should ask the question to them, tayo (for us) we have been doing this as part of our Mutual Defense Treaty which has been in place since 1951 and now they are questioning us with the kind of relationship that we have with the US,” he said.

The envoy clarified that Manila’s move to improve military ties with the US is meant to serve as a “deterrence” and in no way directed against any country.

“Ang gusto natin peace and stability in the area by having the presence of the US and China is our neighbor. Gusto natin peace, pag-usapan natin kung mayroong dispute pero this is not directed to any country. Wala naman may gusto niyan (What we want is peace and stability in the area by having the presence of US and China is our neighbor. What we want is peace so if there is dispute let’s talk, this is not directed to any country no one wants that,” he added.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday warned Manila that the increase in America’s military deployment “would only lead to more tensions and less peace and stability in the region”.

“Regional countries need to think about what is right for the region and mutually beneficial so as to make a choice that serves regional peace and stability as well as their own interests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said in a presser in Beijing.

In a separate statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reiterated that the newly announced EDCA sites aim to “enhance the interoperability” of the US and Philippine armed forces to better respond to threats, including on humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“The President’s announcement affirms a robust commitment between the Philippines and the United States to a stronger alliance that promotes regional peace and stability, addresses new and emerging shared security challenges, and provides for greater socio-economic opportunities for many Filipinos,” DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said.

EDCA, she said, allows the construction of facilities and infrastructure upgrades that directly contribute to the enhancement of the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“More than construction in support of shared goals with the United States, these programs are investments by the Philippines in its own defense and security, benefitting military installations under the full ownership and operational control of the AFP,” she added.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. announced on Monday that the four additional sites under EDCA would be located in the following areas: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan. (PNA)