• Sen. Ejercito said he doesn't trust the Chinese government
  • Sen. Escudero reiterated the Philippines had "every right" to its own territorial integrity
  • Sen. Marcos said the PH should consider whether EDCA sites will "staging areas for U.S. military intervention in Taiwan"

China's comments about the new U.S. military sites in the Philippines have not gone down well with the senators in Manila, as several remain concerned about how the statements could affect the country's sovereignty and global relations.

Following the addition of the U.S. military sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Philippine territories near Taiwan, the Chinese Embassy said in a statement, "To bundle the Philippines into the chariots of geopolitical strife will seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability."

Under the EDCA, the Philippines granted the U.S. four additional military sites. There are five existing U.S. military locations in the country.

"I don't trust the Chinese government," Sen. Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito told the media on Monday, The Philippine Star reported. "I love the Chinese people. I just don't want to trust what their government is saying."

Ejercito went on to argue that Chinese vessels "have been very, very aggressive and hostile" to Filipino fishermen and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). "So if they want us to trust them, they have to respect our sovereignty, our territorial integrity," he said.

Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the Philippines had "every right," just as China and any other nation had, "to pursue a foreign policy that serves our national interest and should not be cowed by such threats," as per ABS-CBN News.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a press release on Tuesday that China should "look in the mirror before casting a stone," citing the "documented and undisputed" encounters in the West Philippine Sea.

However, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel raised the idea of reviewing the Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. further to ensure that the Philippines' foreign policy and sovereignty is upheld.

"Under the MDT, did we hand over to the US the direction of our foreign policy?" Pimentel asked.

Sen. Imee Marcos, who chaired the foreign relations committee, said the Philippine government should also consider whether the new EDCA sites will be used "as staging areas for U.S. military intervention in Taiwan," according to GMA News.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chairperson of the national defense committee, tried to balance the conversation by stating that the Philippines was "not waging a war against China," considering that the two countries are trade partners.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and the U.S. continue to strengthen their defense and security ties, as military personnel from the two sides kicked off the Salaknib Exercise 2023 Monday.

About 3,000 Filipino and U.S. soldiers are taking part in the exercises and trainings that Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said should help the country's shift "towards territorial defense."

Representative image of U.S. army troops. Amber Clay/Pixabay