MILF: 'Philippines-US defense deal won't affect peace'

Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group chairman said as long as we feel that the deal will not jeopardize peace, we have no intention of intervening.

MILF: 'Philippines-US defense deal won't affect peace'

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group is confident that a defense accord signed between the U.S. and the Philippines to allow a larger U.S. military presence in the country won't directly affect them.

"This agreement is between the government and USA. Bangsamoro [an autonomous Muslim political entity within the Philippines] is not party to that agreement. So, we are not directly affected," Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al haj Murad Ebrahim told the Anadolu Agency this week.

"As long as we feel that this agreement will not jeopardize the implementation of our agreement, we have no intention intervening," he added.

Bangsomoro is an autonomous political entity within the Philippines, agreed to by the government and the MILF in a March 27 peace agreement - The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro - which brought to a close 17-years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in the southern area of Mindanao while granting Muslim areas greater political autonomy.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would give American forces temporary access to selected military camps and allow them to preposition fighter jets and ships. It was signed during the visit of President Barack Obama in the country last month.

Under EDCA, the U.S. will also be allowed to build structures, store as well as preposition weapons, defense supplies and material, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.

But the defense accord was contested before the Supreme Court through two petitions filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, and by another group composed of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, party-list lawmakers from the "leftist militant Makabayan" bloc, among others.

The petitioners believed the deal's terms and provisions are “lopsided" in favor of the Americans. They said the EDCA goes against the Philippines' national interest, is disadvantageous to Filipinos, and is mainly motivated by the U.S. strategic re-balancing towards Asia and is therefore in the service of U.S. security and economic interests.

The petitioners said the EDCA would grant the U.S. “carte blanche power to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one.”

They also said the agreement would be a mere implementation of policies enshrined in the PHL-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) — a treaty whose constitutionality is being challenged for the first time before the high court with Saguisag and Tanada's petition.

President Benigno Aquino III has repeatedly said that the EDCA can stand legal scrutiny even if it is challenged before the Supreme Court.

The Bangsamoro Region that will supplant the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is expected to be in place before the 2016 presidential elections.

Last Mod: 04 Haziran 2014, 12:53
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