Cong. Alvarez hails SC decision on EDCA

Cong. Alvarez welcomes Supreme Courts decision on EDCA. (Photo credit: mb.com.ph)

Palawan First District Representative Franz Alvarez hailed Supreme Court’s  decision upholding the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) saying  “it is a  big help  in asserting  our territorial rights.”

 

Congressman Alvarez expressed hopes that EDCA will lead “to an enhanced defense posture  in the West Philippine Sea,”    the waters wePhilippine st of the province which is the site of China’s reclamation spree.

 

One of the reefs there ,  Fiery Cross ,  which  maps call Kagitingan,  recently received its first Chinese jet civilian aircraft,  after two years  of frenetic construction which saw  a 230-hectare military base with a 3-kilometer airstrip  expanding  from a few half-submerged   rocks.

 

Alvarez said that “EDCA  should enhance our position, our  claims,  our presence  in that area. That should be test of its effectiveness. ”

 

He said the Philippines “budgetary position does not give it the luxury to boost its defense.”

 

“The military budget  is by and large  a payroll budget.   In US dollars, the  Army budget for 2016 is about a billion  and the Air Force’s  a third of that, which is small by global standards, “ he said.

 

He added that the P25 billion allocation for  AFP modernization this year “would only allow it to shop for a few things.”

 

While Alvarez supports the affirmation of  EDCA’s constitutionality, “ the agreement must be followed to the  letter. Meaning there should be no permanent basing or permanent stationing of US troops.”

 

It should not be used “to crowbar the   de facto reestablishment”  of US bases in the Philippines or permanent deployment of American servicemen  on Philippine soil, Alvarez said.

 

He added that  temporary deployment of US military equipment, vehicles in Philippine bases under EDCA  must be done  with the approval of  Philippine  military,  “ and with local political leaders being advised,”  he said.

 

And while  the SC  has  disagreed with the Senate’s position that EDCA be  subjected to its concurrence by at least two-thirds of all  its members, “ the door should not be closed on Congress performing oversight on EDCA’s implementation.”

 

“Kung sa VFA merong joint congressional oversight, dapat sa EDCA meron. That EDCA being deemed legal does not mean that it is now placed out of reach of congressional oversight, “ he said

 

Alvarez has earlier condemned China’s first civilian flights to Fiery Cross, “saying it could lead to China’s establishment of an Air Defense Corridor  inside  Palawan.”

 

“It could  hinder freedom of navigation in that area, “ Alvarez said.

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