MANILA — Military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) may be used by Manila and Washington for "emergency situations" aside from disaster relief, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Wednesday.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Monday told the press his government would not allow EDCA sites to be used for any offensive attacks, after China raised fears these "endanger regional peace."
But when asked how the allied countries could use the military bases if an engagement happens between Washington and Beijing, AFP Spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said it is the Philippines that could dictate the terms.
"Ang EDCA facilities to be established doon sa 'yung Armed Forces can use in ordinary days but of course, this will also be made available during emergency situations for combined use of the US and the AFP," Aguilar said in a public briefing.
"These properties will remain to be under our possession, our own properties, facilities and everything that will be brought in inside these facilities will be coordinated and cleared with the AFP," he added.
The official noted that the Philippines stands to benefit from the implementation of this agreement, as these facilities will one day be turned over to the country's military.
The US government has so far poured $82 million into the existing 5 EDCA sites. The US defense department earlier said it would "expand funding" for infrastructure investments on this.
Meanwhile, he added that the "Balikatan" exercises with American troops can help the country modernize its equipment and training, after sectors said this would only worsen tensions between China and US and drag the Philippines into the conflict.
The AFP spokesperson, however, downplayed their concerns and said Filipinos can use the advanced technology that the US troops will provide during this training.
It is also good, he said, for the country's economy.
"Itong ginagawa nating exercises, it involves thousands of American soldiers and Filipino soldiers so maraming mga services na will be availed by these people, for example accommodation, transportation, pagkain, among other things.
"At the same time we will be able to see what are the available to fill in the capability gaps during the assessment ng kakayahan natin," said Aguilar.
Nearly 18,000 troops are taking part in the annual exercises dubbed Balikatan, or "shoulder to shoulder" in Filipino, which for the first time will include a live-fire drill in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.
The drills, considered as the biggest so far, include command post, field training, and cyber-defense exercises, as well as implement humanitarian and civic assistance programs, said Aguilar.
The 18-day long Balikatan military drills are taking place amid tensions over China’s recent war games around Taiwan.
— with a report from Agence France-Presse
Video from PTV