MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday said the Philippines will not allow its military bases to be used for any offensive attacks, a week after the country allowed the United States to access 4 more of these sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Marcos Jr. was reacting to China's pronouncements that the new EDCA bases were "endangering regional peace."
He told reporters that while he did not find the Chinese reaction surprising, he assured EDCA sites would only be used "to help the Philippines when it needs help."
"Ang reaction ng China ay hindi naman siguro katakataka dahil nag-aalala sila. Pero hindi naman tayo papayag na Pilipinas, hindi tayo papayag na gamitin ang mga bases natin para sa kahit anong offensive na aksyon. Ito ay para lamang tulungan ang Pilipinas 'pagka nangangailangan ng tulong ang Pilipinas," he said.
(China's reaction is not really surprising because they are worried. But the Philppines will not allow the use of its bases for any offensive action. These will only be used to help the Philippines if it needs help.)
The President also assured that the Philippines would not launch any military offensive unless the country is attacked first, and EDCA sites would only be used to bolster the country's defenses.
"Kaya't kung wala namang sumusugod sa atin, hindi na sila kailangang mag-alala dahil hindi naman sila natin lalabanan. Ang ginagawa lamang natin ay ipagpatuloy natin na pinapatibay natin ang depensa ng ating teritoryo, ang pagdepensa ng Republika," he said.
(If there is no one attacking us, they do not have to worry because we are not going to attack them. What we are only doing is continuing to bolster our territory and our Republic's defenses.)
China earlier noted that some of the newly identified EDCA bases were located in the northernmost tip of Luzon, just a few hundred kilometers away from Taiwan, while another is in Balabac Island in Palawan not far from disputed waters in the South China Sea.
"Out of self-interest, the US maintains a zero-sum mentality and continues to strengthen its military deployment in the region...The result will inevitably be increased military tension and endangering regional peace and stability, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning had said.
But Marcos reiterated that the Philippines is only giving the United States expanded access to its military bases to give the country aid during disasters and calamities, as the new sites are located in some of the Philippines' most disaster-prone areas.
“These are existing bases, ang kaibahan lang ng EDCA, we give our only existing treaty partner, the United States a chance to help us in any way for disaster relief. Pinili natin ito dahil ito ang pinakamadalas sa disaster," Marcos said.
On April 3, the Philippines announced 4 new sites for the US military to use under EDCA: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan, Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan, Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, and 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," Malacañang had said in a statement.
Signed in 2014, EDCA allows Philippine and American militaries to train together and respond to natural and humanitarian crises. Since the signing, 9 military bases have been identified as EDCA sites.
—with report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News