Senators on Friday, February 10 welcomed the proposal for the Philippines and Japan to strengthen its military and security ties with the United States, including the holding of joint military exercises and disaster response cooperation.
“This is nothing new as there had been a similar undertaking and the most recent of which was the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, a regional commitment focused on measures to address maritime security threats and challenges,” Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said in a statement.
Estrada said also that the recent years’ changing regional security landscape has exposed the Philippines’ vulnerabilities that any strategic partnership with other nations aimed at further enhancing the countries’ increasingly close security relationship “is a welcome move.”
“It need not be emphasized that this proposed trilateral alliance is rooted in mutually beneficial partnerships. We must ensure though that the responsibility of protecting and promoting our national interest rests with our government,” he said.
“This proposal needs to be placed in its proper context in order to temper expectations,” Estrada pointed out.
Sen. Ma. Lourdes Nancy Binay also welcomed the idea, saying such military security agreement should not only be limited to Japan and the US but to other countries as well.
“Maybe we should also include other countries. If it would be to our advantage to protect what is ours, then why not?” Binay pointed out.
“We should be prioritizing what is ours, what will be good for us, to prioritize the Filipinos’ interest first and foremost,” she further said.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito also said the proposed alliance would be good, but also echoed Binay’s suggestion.
“That will be a good alliance, but include as well other ASEAN countries with territorial disputes with China. Countries should band together to resist and prevent further aggression, and likewise, ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” Ejercito said.
Ejercito noted that such agreement can put to stop China’s growing assertiveness in the region particularly in the South China Sea.
“China’s bullying of smaller nations should be stopped!” he stressed.
Sen. Francis Tolentino, for his part, suggested that the Senate be given the opportunity to scrutinize the agreement especially if it is going to be in the nature of a treaty.
“If it is going to be in the nature of a treaty, definitely it has to be ratified by the Senate in accordance with our Constitution,” Tolentino said.
“However, temporary trilateral exercises in the form maritime patrols and land-based training , including disaster assistance might be covered by a new executive agreement, and is a ‘welcome’ new adaptation, so long as it benefits the nation and supports regional peace,” he added.
While the treaty is not similar to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), the idea of a security arrangement with Japan and US would be good for the Philippines, Tolentino pointed out.
“The Senate should be given the opportunity to finetune the dynamics, thereof, while recognizing the role of the President. While this is not a SEATO-like structure, I support its genesis,” he said.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, for his part, agreed with Tolentino, saying the proposal is “nothing new.”
“We have been allies with the US and Japan, albeit without a formal tripartite security treaty, so this is nothing new. But if it will be formalized, it must be a treaty and not a mere executive agreement that should go through the process of ratification by the Senate as it involves not only the security of our country but the welfare and future of our people as well,” Escudero said.
“As the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the details’ and the more people look at and review it, the better for our country and people,” he pointed out.