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Enhanced Defense Cooperation: An invitation for surveillance, drones and new listening posts

Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement
Image source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

“The Agreement is an invitation for surveillance, drones and establishment of new listening posts violating our rights to privacy and sovereignty,” warns Ms. Gladys Regalado, Deputy National Coordinator of the Computer Professionals' Union (CPU). The group is opposing the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.

EDCA accommodates personnel, communications and prepositioning of equipment and actual deployment of forces and materiel in agreed locations “without rental or similar costs” while the Philippines acts as a bodyguard when US troops conducts these activities.

EDCA gives US forces and contractors unimpeded access to agreed locations. Prepositioned equipment, supplies and material are all for their exclusive use. Without clear monitoring, US forces can easily bring surveillance equipment and drones which are among their basic war equipment. “Surveillance of our own people in our own backyard by a foreign country is a blatant disregard of our sovereignty and rights to privacy. Worst, this is allowed and granted by our own government,” said Ms. Regalado.

EDCA also specifically grants “Use of radio spectrum shall be free of cost to the United States.” The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) considers the radio spectrum as a “limited national resource.” Thus, it is strictly regulated together with the manufacture, acquisition, sale and service of radio communication equipment and are exclusive rights of Filipino citizens (NTC Memo Circular, No. 2-05-88). “Even our own mobile phones are registered with the NTC as shown by stickers attached to every device,” adds Ms. Regalado. However, US troops are exempted from these restrictions and are even allowed to use the whole spectrum which is not even granted to Filipinos. The radio spectrum facilitates almost all modern communication. It is also the main channel for surveillance activities.

Allowing US troops to preposition equipment which will definitely include surveillance equipment and drones with free access to the radio spectrum is the best recipe for mass surveillance. Previously, Edward Snowden revealed that the US has also established a “listening post” in Manila. EDCA will allow replication of similar “listening posts” in any agreed locations. “The Philippines will now be a base for mass surveillance not only on our people but to the whole Asia-Pacific,” ends Ms. Regalado.

Source: Computer Professionals' Union

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