A US-Philippine defence agreement aimed at countering China’s growing naval power in the South China Sea has run into political trouble in Manila, with the opposition and high courts disputing its legitimacy.
According to the South China Morning Post, the deal, which was signed in April of last year, would give US troops access to local military bases and permission to build facilities for fuel and equipment storage.
Last year, left-wing politicians and other opponents effectively froze the deal, challenging its constitutionally in the Philippine Supreme Court. A majority in the Philippine Senate has also signed a draft resolution insisting that the upper house scrutinise the deal prior to its taking effect.
“In this resolution, we are saying we will not allow the power of the Senate to be eroded” Senator Miriam Santiago, the principal author of the measure, said in a statement last week. While the Senate resolution would not be binding on the president, it would place pressure on him to expand the debate around the deal.
With national elections due in May next year, politicians are already focusing on who will contest the presidency when the incumbent steps down, potentially causing further delays as congressional business is put on the back burner. The Philippine constitution allows presidents to only serve a single six-year term.
While the Philippine government may have reservations about concluding the deal with the US, sentiment in the region is markedly anti-Chinese when it comes to territorial sovereignty. A few weeks ago a protest against China’s island building in disputed territory took place outside the Chinese consulate in Manila.
Days earlier, the Philippine President went as far as to compare China to Nazi Germany, claiming that China’s recent territorial claims reminded him of “how Germany was testing the waters and response of various other European powers.”
By Dominic Jackson