MINORITY senators pressed for a Senate inquiry into the reported “successive technical stops” of Chinese military aircraft at the Davao international airport facilities, to verify possible violations of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting the presence of foreign troops in the country, except under a treaty duly ratified by the Senate.
The senators added the probe would also ascertain “whether the approval or acquiescence of the President alone to the presence of foreign military aircraft, troops or naval vessels within the Philippine territory is enough to permit or allow their presence.”
“The successive occurrence of Chinese military planes making technical stops in Davao City raises the question of whether the Constitution’s proscription against the presence of foreign troops in the country is being violated by the Duterte administration,” six senators from the minority bloc asserted in filing Senate Resolution 779 on Monday.
The five-page resolution, listing Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Senators Leila M. de Lima, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Risa Hontiveros, Francis N. Pangilinan and Antonio F. Trillanes IV as coauthors, is expected to be referred to the appropriate Senate committees for joint hearings when Congress reconvenes on July 23.
Resolution 779 indicated that among those expected to be summoned for questioning at the upcoming Senate inquiry are officials of the Department of National Defense (DND)and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The senators signaled they are keen to verify if such arrangement with the Chinese government is covered by any treaty or any legally binding agreement.
The authors of the resolution said the Philippines has “no existing treaty” with the People’s Republic of China allowing the use of Philippine military and civilian facilities by Chinese military aircraft.
They added that the circumstances surrounding the Chinese military aircraft’s successive landings in Davao triggered speculations that “the use by the Chinese military of Davao City’s airport facilities is a personal favor granted by President [Duterte] to China.”
The senators recalled initial reports that a Chinese military plane was allowed to land at the Davao City International Airport last June 8 “purportedly to refuel” after it was “received, processed and cleared” by the concerned Philippine government agencies “according to Presidential Special Assistant Christopher Go.”
Another Chinese aircraft was allowed to land and refuel in Davao City on June 24. The senators noted that this second landing prompted President Duterte’s spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. to assure the public the necessary protocols were followed in the latest “technical stop” of the Chinese plane.
Citing unnamed sources, Trillanes said he was informed that “it was not the first time that a Chinese plane landed in Davao City, raising questions whether protocols were followed and whether there is an apparent attempt to hide the incident from the public.”
The Minority senators said an independent inquiry into these incidents was necessary, given China’s aggressive island-building and militarization in the West Philippine Sea, as well as domination and control over Scarborough Shoal.
The want the inquiry to “clarify the role of the DND and the AFP in approving, monitoring and overseeing the transit, passage, presence and use of the Philippine facilities by foreign military aircraft.”