PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte should be ready to fill whatever “logistical void” in terms of disaster relief operations is left by his rejection of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said while maintaining that he is not opposed to the President’s plan to “mothball” the Philippines-US EDCA.
“The vacuum will be felt more in disaster relief operations because in many typhoons in the past, Americans have been the first responders, even sending entire carrier battle groups to help in rescue and reconstruction,” said Recto.
“And in this era of climate change, with its powerful typhoons, we need all the help we can get due to our lack of resources to airlift aid to damaged places,” he said.
President Duterte, during his state visit in Japan, said that he would “not want to see any military man of any other nation except for the Philippine soldier” in the country.
Recto hopes that this statement of the President “should not be read by other nations as a signal that their troops, even in mercy missions, are no longer allowed to set foot here.”
“If Duterte’s latest announcement morphs into policy, the government should be able to make the distinction, that while it no longer welcomes foreign boots on the ground to fight our wars, it would welcome them still if they’re from workmen doing non-security chores,” he said.
“There’s an element of internationalism in doing calamity relief so it is hoped that Duterte’s self-reliant defense posture should not dampen the desire of other countries to send their troops to help us in our time of need,” he said.
In the event of EDCA’s “downgrading,” Recto said it will be up to the diplomatic skills of Duterte officials to negotiate the retention of EDCA’s “humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR)” component.
“EDCA allows the ‘storage and prepositioning of HADR equipment, supplies and material.’ It is to our country’s benefit that such an arrangement will continue to be in force,” he said.
He noted that in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, the US military sent the USS George Washington carrier strike group, dispatched 13,400 personnel including Marines in two ships, deployed 66 aircraft and 12 other ships.
In June 2008, the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group also parked itself in the Visayan Sea to bring aid to victims of typhoon Frank.