The Philippine Supreme Court is expected to rule that a new US-Philippine security agreement is constitutional and is to announce its ruling before US President Barack Obama visits Manila next week for an Asia-Pacific summit, a source said.
The deal gives US troops wide access to Philippine military bases and approval to build facilities to store fuel and equipment for maritime security, but it was effectively frozen after left-wing politicians and other opponents challenged its constitutionality last year.
The expected ruling comes amid growing tensions between the US and China over Beijing’s island-building in the disputed South China Sea.
“I have seen the draft [ruling]. The court will uphold its constitutionality, denying the petition to declare it unconstitutional,” said a court source, who declined to be identified.
The source said that the Supreme Court’s 15-member panel was scheduled to further discuss the agreement today.
If no decision is announced at that session, it would happen on Monday next week, when the court is to convene next, the source added.
Obama is to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Nov. 18 and Nov. 19.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed just days before Obama last visited Manila in April last year.
Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te declined to comment.
A senior government official told reporters the government expected a ruling before the APEC summit.
“I am very confident the Supreme Court will favor us,” the official said.
Last week the court source had said the decision would likely come next year, but one Philippine political expert, Rommel Banlaoi, said the court probably acted to avoid political complications due to Philippine elections in May next year.
“The court is probably worried politicians will use EDCA as an election issue, so it made the decision now,” Banlaoi said.
“If the court decides the agreement is constitutional, it will be a big victory for [Philippine] President [Benigno] Aquino [III]. It cements the strong security alliance between the US and the Philippines,” Banlaoi added.
US-Philippine military ties are already robust.
Philippine military officials have said that there has been an increase in US exercises, training and ship and aircraft visits in the past year under Obama’s “rebalance” to Asia.
However, the EDCA would take the relationship a step further, partly by giving US forces broad access to the Philippines.
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