MANILA — Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Sunday thanked several Philippine lawmakers who openly expressed support for the government's move to grant the United States access to more military bases in the country.
In a statement, Galvez thanked Senators Francis Tolentino, Francis Escudero, and Sherwin Gatchalian for their "favorable sentiments on these developments in our defense and security policy."
On Thursday, the US and the Philippines announced a deal allowing American forces to access 4 more bases in the country as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed in 2014.
This, as the 2 countries attempt to counter China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region amid territorial disputes over the South China Sea, some parts of which Manila calls the "West Philippine Sea."
The agreement also comes as the Philippines seeks to repair fractured ties with its longtime ally, after former President Rodrigo Duterte showed favor to China during his administration.
Galvez said the deal coincided with the Department of National Defense's (DND) mandate to "to secure and defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights such as the freedom of our people to fish in our own waters."
"As a member of the international community, we have a responsibility to protect the global commons in order to prevent humanity from constricting itself by ensuring that vital sea lines of communications are kept open," he said.
Galvez also reiterated that the country's deal with the US was consistent with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s foreign policy of "being a friend to everyone and enemy to no one."
"It is truly encouraging that our distinguished Senators are aware of the importance of EDCA and joint maritime patrols to our national interest. I thank them again for their support," the defense chief also said.
Aside from the Philippines granting the US access to military bases, Galvez said he was also grateful for some senators' support to resume joint maritime patrols between the 2 nations.
Gatchalian had said that the patrols would not only improve military operability between the Philippines and US, but would also bolster disaster preparedness.
Escudero, for his part, also said that the joint patrols would help reduce encroachments and acts of harassment" in the disputed waters.
Galvez also called on local government units to look not only into the EDCA not only for its security implications, but also at "potential foreign investments and economic development that EDCA sites will bring to their communities."
ANC, ANC promo, Carlito Galvez Jr.., Department of National Defense, EDCA, Philippines, United States, military bases, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.