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A Legal Challenge to US-Philippines Defense Ties

The most prominent among many signs of the close U.S.-Filipino relationship is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), signed a year ago. Among other things, the agreement allows U.S. vessels and troops to use bases and ports in the Philippines on a rotating basis. But that hasn’t actually happened yet, even as China pushes it aggressive territorial policies to new heights, because of a challenge to the EDCA’s legality in a Filipino court. Now, with a 2016 presidential election in the Philippines looming and a make-or-break case set to be heard in its Supreme Court, Filipino domestic politics may be getting even further in the way, as Reuters reports:

The court is expected to issue a ruling before U.S. President Barack Obama visits Manila for an Asia-Pacific summit in November. […]

In another complication, 13 senators in the 24-member Philippine Senate have signed a draft resolution insisting the upper house scrutinize the deal before it takes effect.

“In this resolution, we are saying we will not allow the power of the Senate to be eroded,” Senator Miriam Santiago, the principal author of the measure, said in a statement last week. The proposed resolution will be lodged in late July, when the Senate reconvenes after a recess.

While a Senate resolution would not be binding on President Benigno Aquino, it would put pressure on him to allow senators to debate the agreement, which would delay it further, Philippine political experts told Reuters. […]

Senators have said they also want to review an agreement to be negotiated with Tokyo that would allow Japanese military aircraft and naval vessels to use bases in the Philippines for refueling and picking up supplies. […]

Aquino has said the EDCA only needs executive approval because it’s an addition to existing security arrangements.

The Philippines is the country making the loudest calls for international intervention and arbitration in the territorial disputes of the South China Sea, where China has been throwing even more of its weight around lately. If even Manila cannot get its house in order to allow for closer defense ties with the U.S. and Japan, it bodes less than well for the U.S.-backed regional coalition of countries hoping to thwart a belligerent Beijing.

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  • f1b0nacc1

    And what, precisely is the problem here? Their Senate wants to look at the treaty (or executive agreement) before it goes into effect? Something tells me that if this was the US, and it was Obama, rather than Aquino, involved, nobody would be thinking that there was anything amiss here. This is how democratic republics work, and we should be applauding a move away from single-ruler behavior. I am well aware that the Philipine

    • f1b0nacc1

      (sorry, got cut off)….I am well aware that the Philippine Senate has more than its share of corrupt politicians, but distributing the power between the executive and the legislature (which is what we are talking about here) strikes me as a good general principle. I am a conservative, and I share the Founders deep distrust of too much power concentrated in the executive. Shouldn’t we learn from the mess that is Obama?
      On a parallel note, does it not make sense that getting Senate ‘buy-in’ will help make any agreement that is reached more enduring and less susceptible (in the long run) to political grandstanding? There is much to applaud here…

    • Nevis07

      I was just about to say something very similar. I’m quite happy to hear that their Senate wants to review this agreement. I’m confident it’ll go through, because The Philippines know the US is the only country in a position to help them, so having the senate review and approve this only legitimizes the agreement more. Beyond that, it’s good legislative process – a practice that the US could use a lesson in – Executive branch power has to be watched by legislatures.

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