Cagayan, Isabela, Palawan to host additional EDCA sites
MANILA (2nd UPDATE)— The Philippines on Monday named 4 locations seen as additional sites for the United States military to use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Malacañang announced the following sites, all located in Luzon, as “suitable and mutually beneficial” following an inspection and assessment by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP):
- Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan
- Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan
- Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela
- Balabac Island in Palawan
The sites were seen "to boost the disaster response of the country as the locations will also be used for humanitarian and relief operations during emergencies and natural disasters," the Palace said in a statement Monday.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said that Philippine and US officials have identified and agreed on 4 EDCA sites.
The Philippines and United States had announced the expansion of EDCA sites last February, in a move seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
"The four extra sites will be scattered around the Philippines, but the main goal is to defend the country’s eastern coast, the President said, noting the Philippines’ continental shelf on Luzon’s eastern side was also put into consideration," the Palace further said.
The US Department of Defense, meanwhile, said these new locations will "strengthen the interoperability of the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces and allow us to respond more seamlessly together to address a range of shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including natural and humanitarian disasters."
"The (US) Department of Defense will work in lockstep with the Philippine Department of National Defense and Armed Forces to rapidly pursue modernization projects at these locations," the Pentagon said in a statement.
The US defense department also said it aims to expand funding in the chosen EDCA sites that will "spur economic growth and job opportunities in their respective provinces".
Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba had opposed the possibility of using bases in his province as EDCA sites, saying that the hosting of foreign military troops there may make the area a "magnet for an attack in case a war erupts."
But while in opposition, Mamba said the decision to grant the US access to bases in Cagayan was ultimately up to Marcos.
Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong also earlier said the EDCA sites would not be used as US military bases, but only as "storage and warehouse facilities" for military logistics.
As of writing, Philippine and American military troops were engaged in the annual "Salaknib" exercises, the first phase of which was scheduled from March 13 to April 4. The second half of the exercises would be held in the second quarter of 2023.