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A RECENT survey by the Institute of Popular Opinion of the University of Mindanao showed a significant number of Dabawenyos (7 out of 10) are aware of the Enhanced Defence  Cooperation Agreement between the United States and the Philippines. It appears that this is a national issue that has interest to a number of Dabawenyos.The survey was conducted from June 7 to 13, 2023, to determine their perception and awareness of EDCA.

EDCA was signed in 2014 during the term of the late Pres. Benigno Aquino Jr., to address the West Philippine Sea dispute and to respond to natural disasters. This builds on the Mutual Defence Treaty signed in 1951 to enhance the security cooperation between the two countries. In April this year, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III told reporters during his visit to Manila that the MDT “remains the bedrock of our cooperation.”

How do Dabawenyos view EDCA, and what’s in it for them? The survey said about half of the respondents (49.3%) are familiar with the details of EDCA, while 14.5%  or 1 of 10 Dabawenyos said they were aware of EDCA’s specific provisions. 

Majority (63.8%) believed that EDCA’s main purpose is strengthening defense and security cooperation between the US and the Philippines, followed by 2 of 10 (or 15.9%) Dabawenyos believed that EDCA is meant to enhance the interoperability and capacity-building of the armed forces of both countries. 

About the same number of respondents, 7 of 10 Dabawenyos (or 73.9%) claimed that EDCA would further strengthen the defense and security of the Philippines, 6 of 10 (or 58%) see EDCA protecting sovereignty and national interests of the country, and 5 of 10 (50.7%) see EDCA addressing regional security concerns. 

However, in the open-ended probing of the survey, respondents believed there could be other purposes:  power struggle between US and China, using the Philippines as a pawn in a brewing war, EDCA being useless to economic growth of the Philippines, EDCA being a tool to exploit Philippines, EDCA being used as a leverage to gain an advantage in Southeast Asia, among others.

This survey is a good start to bring the discourse on EDCA to the consciousness of people so they know how it can impact their lives.


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