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.