'Defense pact with US a security blanket for PH'

Posted at 04/30/14 4:13 PM

MANILA -- Senate President Franklin Drilon has invited senators to an executive briefing with the Philippine government panel this week to discuss the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), according to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Trillanes said the briefing is meant to address questions that senators may have regarding the agreement.

"I believe the Senate President felt that the senators would need to be briefed so nagpa-schedule siya, nagpa-arrange siya," Trillanes said.

"Mayroong naka-schedule. Siguro si Senate President na lang ang masasabi."

The senators' briefing will be held behind closed doors to allow the panel to address sensitive questions that may touch on national security and foreign policy.

"Kung sakali may senador na magtanong, 'Ilang mga sundalong Amerikano ba ang mag-eexercise?' Hindi pwedeng sagutin 'yun. Kung tatanungin, 'Ano-ano ba ang mga gamit na dadalhin nila? Anu-anong mga eroplano o barko ang gagamitin?' Hindi rin sasabihin 'yun. Tapos saang specific locations ba ilalagay ito? Hindi rin pupwede [sabihin] 'yun…," Trillanes said.

As chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, Trillanes said he is satisfied with the briefings that he has received from the government panel.

He said that he had been receiving status updates and minutes of the negotiations between the US and Philippine panels.

Having undergone Balikatan exercises himself as a former soldier, Trillanes expressed support for the agreement, saying it would be a "big help" to government's efforts to upgrade the capabilities of its military.

"Malaki po ang maitutulong niyan sa ating Sandatahang Lakas dahil naa-update po tayo ng mga latest tactics and doctrines ng modern warfare. [Ang] sinasabi ko nga, itong mga ito hindi po natin pwedeng ma-Google ito o ma-research. Kailangan mo ito makita o ma-apply in the form of exercises," Trillanes said

The senator added that joint exercises would help increase "interoperability" of the Philippine and US armed forces in case the mutual defense treaty is put to test.

He said that the EDCA has provided the Philippines a sort of "security blanket" that would help fill in the needs of the Philippine military and help in its efforts to modernize its military.

He also sees no need for the agreement to be ratified by the Senate, saying it introduces no new concept and that it operates under the previously signed Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.