MANILA — The Philippines is planning to complete the construction of the 5 existing military bases under Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) by 2024 after these were stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues, the defense department said Saturday.
Defense Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the construction of these sites was also interrupted after former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2020 pulled out of the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). After more than a year, he restored the accord following his meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The United States government has said they allotted “$82 million toward infrastructure investments at the existing five sites under the EDCA.”
“Doon sa mga existing, batid natin na naantala yan over the last 4 years dahil sa pandemya, ang pangulo natin ay nag-issue siya ng notice sa US na iaabrogate pero habang tumatakbo ang oras, sinuspend na niya yung abrogation,” Andolong said in a media forum.
“None of them are 100 percent complete yet because of the reasons I cited that’s why we are playing catch up now. We plan to complete them before 2024 or during the first quarter of 2024,” he added.
Under the EDCA, facilities are expected to be constructed to improve interoperability of US and Philippine troops, build capacity, strengthen the AFP for external defense, promote maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).
It is also expected to give way to storage and prepositioning of defense and HADR equipment, supplies and material.
When asked by the media if the construction would mean that Americans would have more access to military bases here, the DND spokesperson answered in the negative.
“They will have more EDCA sites… pero it is not unlimited. Every time they want to use the EDCA sites, that will have to be mutually agreed upon by the Philippines and US sites. There are constant consultations with the mutual defense board and security exchange board wherein the US side and the PH side, discussions to plan out activities,” he said.
“These activities determine when the sites are going to be used, how they will be used, what can be brought in and what they would do with the sites.”
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. this week said they already identified the 4 additional bases under EDCA. While he did not provide specifics, he said these will be placed in Palawan, and in the northern and southern parts of the country.
This was also aimed to “defend” the country’s eastern coast, he added.