A high-ranking leader of the National Unity Party (NUP) has expressed satisfaction over the statements made by President Barack Obama on the United States’ continuing commitment to defend the Philippines under a new bilateral agreement that would allow American troops and their facilities temporary, rotational access here.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., the NUP’s vice president for external affairs, said Obama’s statements were “reassuring.”
“President Obama’s statement is already a very encouraging assurance implying that if any country would no longer be operating in a peaceful and responsible manner, within the territorial domain of the Philippines, we could always expect of the help of the United States of America,” Barzaga said.
Several congressmen from other political parties, among them, Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo of the Liberal Party; independent minority bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of the Lakas-CMD; Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting of the United Nationalist Alliance; and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano echoed Barzaga’s assessment.
Shortly before Obama’s visit to Manila last April 28, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which would allow American troops to temporarily stay and build facilities within Philippine territory over a 10-year period.
During his visit here, Obama acknowledged the Philippines’ strategic location and stressed that his government has an “ironclad commitment” to defend the country in the event of an external attack.
In a gathering with American and Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio last April 29. Obama said: "Let me be absolutely clear. For more than 60 years, the United States and the Philippines have been bound by a mutual defense treaty. And this treaty means our two nations pledge – and I’m quoting – our ‘common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone.’
"In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment, because allies never stand alone.”
The US President, however, made no categorical assurance to the Philippines regarding its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, and merely expressed support for Manila’s attempt to resolve the issue through an arbitration process under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
"Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes the area of maritime disputes,” Obama said.