MANILA — The United States is looking into building 5 additional joint military facilities in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
In an interview on Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro said 2 sites are expected to rise in Cagayan, and one each in Isabela, Zambales and Palawan.
Construction of these EDCA facilities will possibly begin in 2023 as other existing projects have yet to be completed.
“Hindi pa naman i-istart ito because it will be subject to… ‘Yung technical working group pinag-usapan ‘yan, lumabas ang limang ‘yan. These will still be subject to the approval of DND [Department of National Defense] and DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs],” he said.
Defense officer-in-charge Usec. Jose Faustino Jr., for his part, said the sites are an addition to the 5 previously approved sites now undergoing construction.
The first 5 predetermined EDCA sites are located at the following bases:
- Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, near the Kalayaan Group of Islands
- Basa Air Base in Pampanga
- Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija
- Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu
- Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City
“These are ongoing projects now and for the next 2 years, the concentration will be on the completion of the projects within EDCA,” Faustino said in a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.
But the Defense chief clarified that the EDCA sites will not be used as military bases by the US, but as training facilities, humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) facilities, and warehouses.
“We are not building bases, we are not allowed to. The Constitution specially states that foreign military bases are not allowed in the Philippines. What we have are EDCA sites. [These are] Enhanced Defense Cooperation sites that we use for [as] training facilities, warehouses,” he explained.
The establishment of additional EDCA sites was discussed during the Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting, which was attended by Faustino and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in Hawaii in September.
Faustino said the proposals still have to go through a process.
“Of course, we have to consider some constitution provisions, some of our national laws before we could go into that,” the defense official said. “These facilities are Philippines-owned. If the Americans use it, they have to ask permission from us before they could do that.”
The EDCA, signed in 2014, is a defense pact between the Philippines and the United States which allows for the extended stay and rotation of American troops in the country, the building of facilities, and the prepositioning of equipment, aircraft and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.