Philippines-US relations

At defense budget hearing, Gibo Teodoro allays concerns over PH pivot to US

Dwight de Leon

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At defense budget hearing, Gibo Teodoro allays concerns over PH pivot to US

DEFENSE CHIEF. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro

Marcos' defense chief denies the country is consulting US regarding the Philippines' budget planning, and underscores the need for the country to spend its own money on EDCA sites

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro justified the Marcos administration’s defense policy after opposition lawmakers raised concerns over the Philippines’ pivot to the United States.

Teodoro faced the House appropriations committee for the defense department’s budget deliberations on Thursday, September 7, while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was in Indonesia for the ASEAN Summit, where the heightened tensions in the West Philippine Sea has taken center stage.

The defense chief sought to allay the fear of Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel that the Marcos government’s move to restore strong ties with Washington might mean giving up the country’s sovereignty just to protect Philippine territory.

“We are defending the rules-based international order. What constrains other countries is international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Our allies are enforcing the UNCLOS,” Teodoro said.

“We have the Mutual Defense Treaty, as well as alliances with other countries, especially now that [China has released] its 10-dash line,” he added.

Teodoro was referring to China’s standard map which depicted Philippine territory as within China’s giant boundaries in the South China Sea.

The decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the US allows one country to call on the other in case of attack. The US has said this also covers incidents in the South China Sea.

The relationship between the two countries soured during the administration of Rodrigo Duterte, but Marcos has since tried to rebuild those ties since assuming office.

At defense budget hearing, Gibo Teodoro allays concerns over PH pivot to US
Not consulting US for budget planning

Manuel’s concern stemmed from the Bilateral Defense Guidelines agreed upon by the Philippines and the United States in May, when Marcos traveled to Washington.

A part of that document states that the US would “coordinate closely on the Philippines’ defense budget planning, including through the development of a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap to identify priority defense platforms and force packages over the next five years to bolster our combined capabilities and capacity to resist coercion and deter aggression.”

“The US will have a way to delve into our budget planning for defense, but we, on the other hand, are not allowed to meddle into the budget planning of the US,” Manuel claimed.

Teodoro refuted that, but added the agency will “review” the Bilateral Defense Guidelines.

“We are not consulting the US regarding our budget planning. We are requesting with them capability upgrade assistance in accordance with the Mutual Defense Treaty and other cooperation agreements,” Teodoro explained.

“Our capability upgrade will be delayed if we don’t pass the general security of military information agreement of the US and other countries, because these talks are highly technical and highly confidential,” he added.

Spending for EDCA sites

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas also asked why the Philippines is spending its funds to build bases that are identified as military sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.

“We should not allow our country to have shared locations [with the US] and then we are the ones shelling out funds for it. We become more at risk instead of having our own independent defense posture,” Brosas said.

But Teodoro asserted that spending the government’s own funds for the EDCA sites is necessary.

“We really need to spend. If not, then we lose our Philippine independence on it. We really need to spend. This is just assistance for us. If it is related to other geopolitical activities of the United States, I can’t say it’s not, it’s for internal hardening of our external defense credible deterrent posture,” Teodoro said.

“They will spend too, and we are also getting capability assistance from it provided we pass the security assessments,” he added.

At defense budget hearing, Gibo Teodoro allays concerns over PH pivot to US
Budget request

The DND is seeking P229.9 billion in 2024, a 12% increase from its budget for the current year.

This includes P50 billion that would be allotted for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

Teodoro justified the request for a bigger budget.

“We are playing catch up in terms of defense spending that we weren’t able to do back in the day. A peso delayed now means we have to pay three pesos in the current year. No country in the world has a weak national defense,” he said.

“We are trying to be at par with the capabilities of other countries because it’s a race right now in terms of the capacity to defend territories,” Teodoro added. –

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  1. ET

    DND Secretary Teodoro said that, “We are playing catch up in terms of defense spending that we weren’t able to do back in the day.” So what were done during the term of former President Duterte? Did we lagged behind in Defense spending during Duterte’s term? More likely, our country did lag behind in Defense spending as more of the DND’s budget were spent on salary increases and the huge retirement benefits of our Military Uniform Personnel (MUP) during Duterte’s term. Former President Duterte did it out of love for our MUP’s and also out of fear that they may stage a coup d’état against him.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.