Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on EDCA
SEN. MARCOS. Thank you, Madam Chair. Just a quick question.
This is very much in relation to the question of the Chair. In your view, sa inyo po, Secretary Gazmin, ano yung ibig sabihin nung sinabi ni President Obama na hindi makakapangako ang Estados Unidos na makipaglaban kahit na sino ang umatake sa Pilipinas? Because ang nasabi mo kanina ay pagka may nangyari na ganoon, nagkaputukan, ay mahihila natin ang Amerika para tayo ay tulungan. Ngunit sinabi niya, maliwanag na maliwanag, that the United States cannot promise that it will go to war if the Philippines is attacked. Kaya’t napuna ko rin na sa inyong salaysay ay pinag-usapan lamang ninyo ay training at saka pagpatibay ng ating mga AFP at saka iyong pampaganda ng ating maritime security. Hindi natin napag-usapan kung ano ba talaga ang inaasahan natin sa Amerika. Kaya’t doon sa sinabi ni President Obama nung kanyang bisita rito, ano sa palagay ninyo ang ibig sabihin noon? Na hindi makapangako ang Amerika na sila ay lalaban para sa Pilipinas kung tayo man ay inatake?
MR. GAZMIN. Ang sabi po…/jadc
MR. GAZMIN. …Ang sabi po ni President Obama, ang commitment ng US ay ironclad. Ibig sabihin ay matibay iyong kanilang commitment sa atin. Ngayon, tayo ay naniniwala dahil ito ang pinakamataas na Amerikanong nagsabi nito sa commitment na ito.
SEN. MARCOS. Matibay ang commitment. Ngunit, anong ibig sabihin ng commitment na iyon? Ano ang naipapangako ng Amerika, hindi lamang sa Mutual Defense Treaty, kung hindi pati na dito sa EDCA na sila ay tutulong sa atin kapag nagkaroon ng giyera?
THE CHAIRPERSON. Please excuse me.
I remember that President Obama paid a state visit to Japan. And then he was asked since there are certain islands of Japan, the ownership of which is in dispute. He was asked, “Will the United States go to war if the Japanese islands are invaded”? And they said, “Yes.” And eventually he was asked, “Will the United States go to war if the Philippines is invaded?” And they said, “No.” That’s on record.
SEN. MARCOS. Yes, Madam Chair. That is precisely what I am alluding to. And I would like in the light of our examinations as to whether or not the EDCA provides us additional security or strengthens our commitments to one another vis-à-vis the United States and the Philippines. I was asking what, in fact, is their interpretation, is the Department of National Defense’s interpretation of these pronouncements that President Obama made? And beyond that what we have in the EDCA, as to what exactly the response of the United States will be should we find ourselves in a shooting war.
MR. GAZMIN. Well, right now, Your Honor, we use EDCA as a deterrent to any threat to our security. As we are using this, we continue to fill in the gaps to our modernization program.
SEN. MARCOS. A deterrent. Ibig sabihin na parang hindi naman nananakot o nagsasabi na “Huwag kayong lumaban sa amin dahil lalabanan namin kayo.” Sabi sa atin, “Hindi kami lalaban para sa Pilipinas.” So, paano magiging deterrent iyon? Dahil sasabihin ng kahit sino “Paputukan nga natin iyang barko ng Pilipinas.” Hindi tayo matatakot dahil sinabi na ng Amerika hindi naman sila makikipag- giyera para sa Pilipinas. So, that’s not a deterrent. Why will an aggressive power have second thoughts or be afraid of attacking us when nobody is going to come to defend us except our own armed forces?
MR. GAZMIN. With the deterrence na nangyayari nga ngayon, kita niyo, hindi ho tayo inaatake doon sa ating pag-resupply nung ating mga tropa sa Ayungin Shoal although we have skirmishes but not caused a shooting war.
SEN. MARCOS. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I think that is due to the bravery and skill of our own servicemen. I don’t think the Americans played a part in that. But never mind, if that is your interpretation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We’ve heard a lot this morning about the improvement of our capabilities, the improvement of our readiness and it has been proposed that that is the main purpose of the agreed locations to improve our maritime security to help in the organization of our military exercises together with the United States.
However, in Article 6 of the agreement of EDCA, it speaks mostly of pre-positioning. And pre-positioning, I take to mean, is simply the forward positioning of materiel so that when there is a deployment in that part of the world, that this material did not come from a distance far away in the United States. I am reminded of the pre-positioned material that you see in a place like Hawaii where there are acres and acres of military equipment just waiting to be deployed should there be a need.
And furthermore, in Paragraph 3 of Article 4, it reads, “The pre- positioned materiel of United States force shall be for the exclusive use of the United States force and full titles of such equipment, supplies and material remains with the United States.” With that, the United States will have control over the access to and disposition of such pre-positioned materiel and shall have the unencumbered right to remove such pre-positioned materiel at any time from the territory of the Philippines.” This is implying that these pre-positioned materiel in the Philippines agreed locations is for war and it is not to do with training, it is not to do with increasing the Philippine Armed Forces capability but merely it is using the agreed locations in the Philippines should there be a need to prosecute a war in our part of the world which will—and the pre-positioning of this materiel will be clearly for the use only of United States forces, surely that implies that this is now a US base.
SolGen or Usec Batino.
MR. BATINO. Thank you, Madam Chair and Your Honor.
We would like to make emphasis on the pertinent phrase in Paragraph 1 of Article IV that requires the pre-positioning and storing of defense equipment to go through bilateral security mechanisms such as the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board. This clearly provides that the Philippines’ consent is needed for the pre-positioning of these materiel taking into consideration its own— our own national interest.
SEN. MARCOS. My reading of it is that it does not require the Philippine consent any longer because in the language, Philippine consent is actually being given and therefore that consent need not be given at any time in the future. It is already given by virtue of this agreement. So, there is no bilateral consultation in any way. Dahil ibinigay na natin ang karapatan, “Sige, sige, magpasok kayo kung ano ang gusto ninyo na mailagay ninyo dito sa mga agreed locations.” Mga gamit na hindi naman magagamit ng mga sundalong Pinoy. So, papaano hindi naging base iyan? Parang it looks to me—it sounds a lot to be like a base because this is precisely the kind of activities that they do on bases on American soil. Kaya nga napapag-usapan natin na maraming nababanggit tungkol nga sa training, capability, disaster relief. Okay, lahat yan. Pero maliwang na maliwanag mayroon silang—may bahagi noong agreed locations na para sa Amerikano lang at tayo naman ay pumayag.
MR. BATINO. Yes, Your Honor. We think that we need to contextualize the language presented under Paragraph 1. The Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board are established consulting mechanisms that meet regularly year-to-year to discuss the activities and all other details in connection with these activities. Thus, this is a regular consulting mechanism between the US and the Philippines in the planning of training activities as well as other operational details such as venue of the training exercise and the possible materiel to be used for the training exercises.
So, it is our position, Your Honor, that through Paragraph 1, it is clear that there is still this consenting mechanism that is needed to be passed before any pre-positioned materiel could be decided by the two parties to be stored in the agreed locations.
SEN. MARCOS. Well, again, the last sentence on that paragraph says, “the United States forces shall notify the AFP”—will not consult, will not seek the agreement but will notify. Again, this bilateral consultation seems to be absent in that kind of language.
MR. BATINO. Your Honor, the first sentence would pertain to the identification of the pre-positioned materiel to be stored. Once the determination has been made, then we still require the US to notify us in advance of the delivery of this pre-positioned materiel. Of course, this is needed so that we could coordinate our protocols with the delivery of these items.
Also, Your Honor, we would want to also emphasize a very important paragraph in Article IV, specifically Paragraph 2 where the parties share a recognition of the benefits that such pre-positioning could have for HADR and for the enhancement of their individual and collective defense capabilities, which is, again, in consonance with Article I of the EDCA which focuses on the development and preparation of our individual and collective capacity for mutual defense.
We note, Your Honor, your observation under Paragraph 3 and it is our position that this is a reasonable provision because these equipment, materiel stored really still belongs to the US. However, it will be used for the conduct of training exercises for the benefit of both the Philippine and US forces. It can be used for HADR in times of disasters.
SEN. MARCOS. But, Usec, there is nothing here to say that the pre-positioned material will only be relief goods, will only be water supply for disaster preparedness, will only be for that. If that were the only thing, that will certainly wouldn’t be a problem. But we are talking about weapons and materiel that are being stored.
But, anyway, I need not belabor the point. I think I have made my point that it would seem that, at least, at the very least, there is a section or part of these agreed locations which will be for the sole use of the United States forces which would seem to imply that they have now established a base in the Philippines.
So, with that, Madam Chair, thank you.