MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the Philippines would soon announce the location of 4 additional military bases that American soldiers can use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The Philippines and the US, longtime treaty allies, agreed last month to expand cooperation in "strategic areas" of the country as they seek to counter China's growing assertiveness over Taiwan and its building of bases in the South China Sea.
“We will make a formal announcement. But we will formalize it with our partners in the United States first so that we will not preempt,” Marcos told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Army’s 126th founding anniversary.
“Iba-iba talaga… Mayroon din element that is there because of our continental shelf on the eastern side of Luzon,” he said.
“That’s also something we have to look out for,” he added.
The national government has met with local government units where the new EDCA sites would be located and “explained to them why it’s important to have that and why it will be good for their province,” the President said.
“Mukha namang naintindihan nila dahil those who interposed objections, they came around,” he said.
(It seems they understood.)
The 2014 EDCA gave US forces access to 5 bases in the Philippines. It has been expanded to 9, but the locations of the 4 additional bases have not been revealed as the government consults with local officials.
It has been widely reported that 2 of the sites will be in the northern province of Cagayan, less than 400 kilometers from self-ruled Taiwan, which China sees as part of its territory.
Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has publicly opposed having EDCA sites in his province for fear of jeopardizing Chinese investment and becoming a target in a conflict over Taiwan.
Acting defense chief Carlito Galvez told reporters Monday the government had "already decided" on the sites and that Mamba had agreed to "abide with the decision."
The EDCA stalled under former president Rodrigo Duterte, who favored China over the country's former colonial master.
But President Ferdinand Marcos, who succeeded Duterte last June, has adopted a more US-friendly foreign policy and has sought to accelerate the implementation of the EDCA.
Beijing has been critical of the agreement, which its embassy in the Philippines said recently was part of "US efforts to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with this country".
— With a report from Agence France-Presse