Press Release
October 19, 2016

Excerpts from the Interpellation of Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon during the Committee on Appointment's hearing on the appointment of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Drilon: For 100 years, we have very close relationships with the United States. The numerous agreements singed on the military level - I don't have to enumerate - and many of these resulted in very perceptible and substantial military assistance. This has happened for the last century. But in the past 100 days, there appears to be a very clear shift from United States as a treaty ally to China. Would you confirm this? There is a clear pivot from the US to China.

Lorenzana: Mr. Chairman, the way I read the President is that we are not actually veering away from the US and inking a treaty alliance with the Chinese. What he wanted to do is to expand our sources of materials, maybe some investment. And China is trying to give us a very generous offers. That is why part of the mission that I will do - and I will join them tomorrow in Beijing - is to look at some of the equipment the Chinese defense ministry will be showing me. Ang sabi naman po niya ay tingnan ninyo kung kailangan natin. Hindi naman niya sinabi na bumili na kayo. Check it out and ask the end-users if they need this equipment...

Drilon: Would inter-operability be an issue?

Lorenzana: Yes, Sir. Definitely, it will be an issue, because practically all our equipment are US-made, or made by allies of the US, and we have been training with them for the longest time, and exercising with them. So when we inject a new equipment, especially those high-tech equipment, there will be inter-operability problems.

Drilon: So how do you propose to solve these inter-operability problems in the next two, three, four years...given the fact that not only our equipment but also our training has been geared towards Western armaments?

Lorenzana: Yes, I agree with you Sir. There are small items that are inter-operable...But for big-ticket items like signal equipment, or drones maybe, or shift, I think it will take a long time for us to adjust in these equipment?

Drilon: So hindi po realistic itong pinag-uusapan nating shift, because I assume even the manuals are in Chinese?

Lorenzana: Yes Sir...

Drilon: Anyway, Mr. Secretary, what is the status of our treaties particularly EDCA and defense agreements with the US. Is there decision to terminate, suspend them? Can the committee be clarified on this?

Lorenzana: Mr. Chairman, I specifically asked the President for guidance on that. I asked him to give guidance on the VFA, the US troops in Mindanao, the exercises next year, and the EDCA. He told me to present these during a Cabinet meeting next month, I think November 4 or 7. I am actually preparing for this presentation because he said I would need the inputs from the Cabinet to make the decision. As of now, there is no decision to suspend training next year, the VFA still on, everything here is going, Sir.

Drilon: Being the head of the defense establishment, what is your view on this issue?

Lorenzana: Mr. Chairman, if the President is really intent on what he was telling the media, I think I will recommend the scaling down of the exercises next year. Maybe we will (unclear) the big exercises like the Balikatan...the sea exercise, and maybe concentrate on the training with the US involving human assistance and disaster response in counter-terrorism.

Drilon: Does the Balikatan and such other exercises benefit the defense department?

Lorenzana: It benefits our troops also. I remember I was a captain in the military in 1991 during the first Balikatan. Because they left the bases there was no Balikatan until the VFA was signed in 1998. Our soldiers, the AFP are telling us that yes, they do benefit on the Balikatan. On the other hand, I believe the US benefits more in these exercises than us.

Drilon: So, it is mutually beneficial insofar as the Balikatan is concerned. No foreign policy is altruistic...That the Americans benefit, we should not begrudge them. They have a foreign policy, which is also be geared towards their own national interest. But it cannot be denied that we benefit from these exercises. Then why should we terminate these?

Lorenzana: Mr. Chairman, I really don't know because the President has been issuing statements without consulting the Cabinet.

Drilon: At least, our nominee is very honest, very candid...But honestly, he is a gentleman who would tell this Commission the truth and what is his mind, and I certainly admire him for that...Just to be clear, is there an intention to terminate EDCA, or VFA, because we have heard statements of this nature?

Lorenzana: We will have to wait until our presentation to the Cabinet and we will really get the decision from the President if he really wants the EDCA terminated.

Drilon: At this point, as we are talking, the termination of this long-standing agreement is still on the table?

Lorenzana: Yes, Sir.

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