Makabayan bloc to Duterte: End EDCA, military drills with US
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House Makabayan bloc expressed their dissatisfaction on Thursday, November 10, over the continuation of the country's joint military exercises with the United States along with the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
This comes after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Balikatan exercises between the Philippine and US militaries will still push through.
The EDCA will also be implemented, despite President Rodrigo Duterte earlier saying he wanted to scrap it.
According to Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, Duterte should stick to his plan to craft an independent foreign policy.
"Ang hamon sa kanya is really walk the talk, at hindi mag-alinlangan na balangkasin ang ating depensa at pambansang soberaniya sa territorial na integridad batay sa pagtataguyod ng patakarang pambansa," Elago said.
(The challenge for him is to really walk the talk and not hesitate to build our defense and sovereignty in territorial integrity based on the implementation of our national policy.)
While the Balikatan war games will continue, two other regular exercises focused on joint training of the marines and the navies – the Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) – are cancelled.
ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, said, however, that this is not enough.
"Natural hindi tayo masaya rito. Para sa atin, hindi ito sapat. Magiging totoo, magiging ganap ang independent foreign policy, as far as we are concerned, hindi natin makakamit ang genuine sovereignty… kung mananatili at palalakihin ang presensiya ng US dito sa Pilipinas," Tinio said.
(Naturally, we are not happy with this. For us, this is not enough. Our independent foreign policy will only be true and binding, as far as we are concerned, we won't achieve genuine sovereignty... if the US presence here in the Philippines would remain.)
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate is more optimistic that the cancellation of the Phiblex and CARAT is a step towards the Duterte administration pursuing an independent foreign policy. For Zarate, however, more needs to be done.
"Hindi tayo satisfied na may pag-downscale, pag-downgrade lang. Kailangang tanggalin ang ganitong mga activities at paalisin na ang tropang Amerikano," Zarate said.
(We are not satisfied that there is only a downgrade. We need to remove these activities and kick out American troops.)
"Siguro they are calibrating 'yung outright na tanggalin lahat. Dahan-dahan, may pag-abante naman dito. May pag-alis ng naval exercises, may iniwan na kaunti siguro to save face," he added.
(Maybe they are calibrating whether to remove all the exercises or not. Slowly, there is movement towards this. They removed the naval exercises to save face.)
According to Lorenzana, the joint exercises between the Philippine and US militaries will be limited to counter-terrorism, humanitarian relief and disaster response, engineering projects, and civic actions. – Rappler.com