WASHINGTON, D.C.—Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said today the new defense cooperation agreement the Philippines entered into with the United States will not only deter aggressors and provide a quick response mechanism to disasters but will also help the Government achieve its goal of improving the lives of the Filipino people.
Speaking before the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) here, the Vice President said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that was signed in Manila on Monday is an important pillar of the country’s regional security policy as well as an effective response mechanism to humanitarian and natural disasters.
“A stronger American military presence in the Philippines and greater interoperability between our respective armed forces dramatically increases our individual and collective defense capabilities, providing a dramatic deterrent against external aggression,” the Vice President told his audience that included diplomats, business leaders and members of the Filipino-American Community.
“Through the EDCA, we have effectively upgraded our own security platform, without shifting a significant portion of our limited resources to support an arms race and procure weapons systems that exceed our normal defense requirements,” he said.
“It will soothe and calm the investment climate in the Philippines. It enables us to focus better on developing a solid economic base to combat poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and disease.”
Vice President Binay also pointed out that EDCA does not signal a shift in the Manila’s core strategy for regional security. “We have always believed and will continue to hold ourselves to the principle that the future of mankind lies not in conflict nor war, but in dialogue, cooperation, development and peace,” he said.
The Vice President said the Philippines will continue to pursue a peaceful solution to the disputes in the South China Sea by opting for arbitration as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and supporting efforts towards the conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China.
“Let me stress, nonetheless, that our support for EDCA does not reflect a freezing of ties with China. Nor do we view the disputes in the South China Sea as the totality of our bilateral relations with China,” he said, citing the increase in trade with Beijing that made it the country’s largest trading partner as well as the historic and people-to-people ties.
“In the end, trade, as well as the deep filial ties that bind our peoples will prevail over the issues of territory and boundaries that are currently threatening our relationship,” the Vice President said.
In his speech, Vice President Binay also said the Philippines must further liberalize its economy to improve the country’s competitiveness and allow it to attract local and foreign investments in manufacturing and other sectors.
“We must harmonize local and national laws to ensure investors of orderly business operations,” he said. “We must cure the policy and infrastructure misalignments that emerge as we cascade our gains to the grassroots.”
He said a true open skies policy with an aggressive airport development program must be undertaken alongside reforms in the electric power industry as well as the modernization of the agriculture sector.
“And we must keep our promise to maintain a clean and transparent government with a stable policy regime into 2016 and beyond,” he told his audience.#