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Minority senators want Chinese plane landings probed

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By Xave Gregorio

Minority senators want the Senate to probe the repeated landings of Chinese military aircrafts in Davao City for “technical” stops, suggesting that these could be personal favors extended by President Rodrigo Duterte to China.

“The circumstances of the Chinese military aircraft landing in Davao is giving rise to speculations that the use by the Chinese military of Davao City’s airport facilities is a personal favour granted by the President to China,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators, Leila de Lima, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes IV said in Senate Resolution No. 779 filed Monday (July 9).

“The successive occurrence of Chinese military planes making ‘technical’ stops in Davao City raises the question of whether or not the Constitution’s proscription against the presence of foreign troops in the country unless covered by a treaty duly ratified by the Senate is being violated by the Duterte administration,” they said further.

Trillanes had earlier raised concerns that the repeated landings of Chinese military planes in the country is unconstitutional as there is no treaty between China and the Philippines to allow their troops to be in the country.

Article XVIII, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution explicitly bans foreign military bases, troops and facilities in the country, unless there is a treaty between the Philippines and another country concurred to by the Senate or even agreed to in a referendum by the public.

Minority senators are questioning if the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ clearance for the planes to land are enough in the absence of a treaty between China and the Philippines, instead of considering it as a “serious breach” of national security and defense protocols and a “grave threat” to sovereignty.

This adds to the growing number of Senate resolutions seeking an investigation into Chinese activities, which are yet to be heard by the Senate foreign affairs committee chaired by Senator Loren Legarda.

Legarda has vowed she would conduct a hearing “soon” during Congress’ sine die break. Only two weeks remain in the break, but she is yet to set a date for a hearing.

Government officials have confirmed that Chinese military planes gave indeed landed in Duterte’s hometown of Davao City, but allayed security concerns about foreign military presence in the Philippines.