Philippines welcomes court ruling allowing USA defense pact

Philippines welcomes court ruling allowing USA defense pact

The ruling will bolster United States efforts to reassert itself and it dovetails with Philippine efforts to harness Washington's help in addressing aggressive acts by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines hosted two of the largest overseas USA military bases until 1992, the year after the Philippine Senate voted to end the leases in the face of strong anti-US sentiment.

"We welcome the Philippine Supreme Court's decision that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is consistent with the Philippine constitution", said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes has argued that the agreement makes the country a launching pad for USA military intervention and transforms it into a US military outpost.

"This is another sad day for Philippine sovereignty", said left-wing activist Renato Reyes, who was among those who challenged the legality of the defense accord before the high court, according to AP.

Military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla said the facilities would be used to store equipment and supplies.

In this regard, the deal is groundless because China, which sticks to a defensive defense policy, has never coerced any country on the South China Sea issue but has been calling on concerned parties to peacefully solve maritime disputes through negotiations.

War games covered by the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement were held in former United States bases and facilities such as Clark Air Base in Pampanga and Tarlac provinces, O' Donnel Firing Range in Tarlac, Subic Naval Base and Loran Station in Zambales, and Sangley Point Naval Base in Cavite province.

ASEAN stands for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that also includes Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma) which has been advocating the adoption of a legal and binding code of conduct among claimants in the South China Sea. This grants the President the power "to enter into an executive agreement on foreign military bases, troops or facilities if "it is not the instrument" that allows such military basing, and "merely aims to implement an existing law or treaty".

Some Filipinos have been protesting against a new defense pact that would allow American troops to deploy to Philippine military bases.

"We will resume discussions especially now that we have the go- signal that EDCA is constitutional", he said.

As such, the SC said Edca is only an executive agreement and within President Aquino's power.

Philippine military officials say there has been an increase in USA exercises, training and ship and aircraft visits in the past year under Obama's rebalance to Asia but the pact would take the relationship a step further.

"Wherefore, we hereby dismiss the petitions", the high court said in its ruling, a summary of which was released Tuesday.

A global tribunal in The Hague has ruled it has jurisdiction to hear the Philippines' claims against China's bid to assert control over one of the world's busiest waterways.

Zhu Feng, the executive director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University was quoted by The New York Times as saying that "the South China Sea will be more crowded, and the risk for a military conflict will continue to rise".

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