MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday defended the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.
The expansion, which involves the addition of 4 EDCA sites on top of the 5 predetermined locations when the agreement was signed in 2014, was announced by Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III last week.
Authorities have yet to announce the locations, saying coordination with local government units is ongoing.
However, in November, Philippine defense officials said locations being considered for access are military bases in North Luzon and Palawan, sites near Taiwan and the West Philippine Sea.
“The Philippine and US sides agreed to designate four new Agreed Locations under EDCA in strategic areas of the country. These sites will be announced in due time, i.e., when all the necessary consultations, coordination, staff work and other requirements are completed or complied with,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong told reporters in a Viber message on Tuesday.
Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba said on Monday, however, that he is not keen on having an EDCA site established in his province.
Speaking to ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, Mamba said he believes residents of Cagayan would not want conflict with any of the Philippines’ neighbors.
“Anything foreign ay hindi po welcome sa atin. This is my personal opinion. I still have to consult our people at least. Pero sa tingin ko ay tama po,” he said. “And lalung-lalo na kung ito ay para sa away lang ng ibang bansa. Hindi po namin kaaway ang any of our neighbors—not Taiwan, not China, not Japan, not Korea. Para sa amin po, hindi po namin sila kaaway.”
Asked to react to this, Andolong said local chief executives should consider the economic benefits of the additional EDCA sites to host communities.
“We respectfully enjoin our local chief executives to consider the potential foreign investments and economic development that EDCA sites will bring to their communities, as well as the enhancement of the protection of our areas that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the quicker disaster response and mitigation when our front-liners are called to action,” Andolong said.
AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar, meanwhile, noted that the EDCA will facilitate the construction of facilities that will help improve the country’s defense and disaster response capabilities.
These facilities will be turned over to the Philippine government after serving their purpose, he explained.
“When you talk about EDCA and the new facilities that will be established in some military bases, they will remain to be our property. These facilities will only be used during times of calamities and emergencies, so we will be using these facilities for our operational purposes. It will also facilitate the conduct of maritime exercises between our Armed Forces and that of the US. They are important in helping us modernize our AF, enhance our capabilities and make us efficient in the conduct of HADR operations,” Aguilar told reporters in an interview at Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday.
“It’s obvious that we gain the knowledge on new technologies. We are able to harmonize our operations, that’s why our objective is to make our AF and theirs interoperable. Their stay here will add economic opportunities and benefits for our local producers, businessmen and even our people,” he added.
The EDCA allows US troops access to Philippine military bases for joint training, prepositioning of equipment and assets, and building of facilities, but rules out permanent basing.
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