The Philippine government told the country’s Supreme Court Tuesday that it should be free to implement a new security pact allowing U.S. troops to deploy to Philippine bases.
Acting Solicitor General Florin Hilbay argued that in signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, President Benigno Aquino III exercised the “core prerogatives of a commander in chief” to protect national sovereignty by giving Philippine forces access to U.S. military expertise.
Last week, opponents of the pact told the same court that the deal was unconstitutional, arguing that the stationing of foreign troops on Philippine soil must be agreed in a treaty ratified by the country’s Senate.
But Mr. Hilbay said this was a misreading of the deal. The Aquino administration had the power to implement it as an “executive agreement” without Senate approval under the terms of the Philippines’ long-standing Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S., he told the court.
The U.S. isn’t directly involved in the case, and the U.S. Embassy in Manila didn’t respond to questions.
Manila and Washington signed the EDCA in April, with the U.S. pursuing a policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, and the Philippines seeking American support as it struggles to manage its maritime disputes with China.
The legal challenge, filed in May, has meant the two sides were forced to suspend the deal until the Supreme Court rules, which at a minimum won’t be before several months.
The hearings are taking place amid a high-profile police investigation that critics have seized to try to galvanize grass roots opposition to the pact.