By MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
MANILA, Philippines – Whether it is an expanded armed forces cooperation or a return of the United States military bases in the country, a Philippine senator said government officials should practice prudence when it enters into a treaty with the United States.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said whatever agreement the country enters with the Americans, the most important thing would be for the Filipinos to know the details first, and the benefits the Philippines would get in hosting the U.S armed forces in the country.
“We know the purpose of the facilities is for the protection of the U.S interest. But we have to articulate our interest to them, too. If the agreement is not naturally helpful to us but only for the Americans, what’s the need to host them in the country?” he posed.
Even though the return of the bases is subject to the approval of the Senate, Cayetano said Filipino should be wary about the machination by the government and the U.S in allowing the return of the base indirectly in the country.
“They might be there to say that they are not putting base but they can build facilities.They might do it. Again, I will talk about our national interest”.
The military-weak Philippines is presently eyeballing a bellicose and militarily strong Mainland China that took in 1994 the former Mischief Reef located within the 200 miles exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the country. China declared that all of the islets and water 30 to 50 miles near the Philippines are part of its territory basing on its nine-dash line thus cutting off the country’s 200-mile EEZ and continental shelf, in violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to which China and the Philippines were a signatory.
Cayetano said he had no problem with the return of the bases but he wanted to see that the national interest of Filipinos taken care of first.
“I want to see that the government side. What do we get out of it”.
According to Reuters the Philippines and the United States on April 11 reached agreement on a new security accord which will expand military cooperation between the two old allies and allow the United States military to share local bases with the Philippines armed forces for maritime and humanitarian operations. The deal has been under negotiations for some time now.
The agreement will be a highlight of President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Manila from April 28-29, when he is expected to sign the final draft.
But some Philippine senators threatened to question that military agreement with the U.S in the Philippines supreme court saying that it was unconstitutional.
(Mortz C. Ortigoza is a political columnist in the Philippines. He used to teach political science and Asian governments in universities in Manila and in Dagupan City. You can send your comment or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)