Senators seek review of Philippine-US defense treaty

November 17, 2011

Jonathan de Santos
Sunstar Online
November 17, 2011

IT IS high time to review the Philippines’ defense agreements with the United States, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a former Defense minister, said Thursday.

He made these remarks after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario signed the Manila Declaration to mark the 60th year of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

“The Republic of the Philippines and the United States today reaffirm our shared obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty. We expect to maintain a robust, balanced, and responsive security partnership including cooperating to enhance the defense, interdiction, and apprehension capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the declaration read.

At the same event, Clinton promised that “the United States will always be in the corner of the Philippines, and we will stand and fight with you.”

Enrile said, however, that the US has made similar pronouncements before (but) “whenever we have a security problem and we try to call upon the United States to help us, there are a lot of arguments that are being raised (by them).”

Enrile said, however, that the 60-year-old treaty as well as the 12-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement, which was the subject of Senate hearings last year.

He noted that the MDT does not assure automatic assistance in case the Philippines is attacked.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, earlier this week, said the Philippines is on the losing side of both agreements.

He said although the US said the Philippines is an important ally, “we get bread crumbs relative to what their other allies and security partners have received, and our military is far from modernized.”

He said despite the 60 years as military allies with the US, the Philippines only received $507 million in military aid in the past 10 years.

In contrast, Pakistan — where Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by US troops in May — received $20 billion in military and economic aid from 2002-2010, he said.

“While we acknowledge the value of our alliances and relationship with other countries such as the US, the respect must be mutual. We have been keeping our end of the bargain yet much is left to be desired from their end,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan filed a resolution last year calling for a review and renegotiation of the VFA, and the Senate held hearings on it.

The matter was handed over to the Department of Foreign Affairs, however, since the department had yet to finish a report on the VFA that it was supposed to submit to Congress.

Enrile said the review should be given priority but that that would fall on the executive department and not Congress.

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