Hontiveros expresses reservations on additional EDCA sites

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2022 05:23 PM | Updated as of Nov 28 2022 05:38 PM

Philippine and United States armed forces conduct a bilateral amphibious exercise (AMPHIBEX) on March 31, 2022 in the vicinity of Claveria, Cagayan Valley as part of the 37th iteration of Philippine-US Exercise Balikatan. AMPHIBEX involves the movement of assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) from L-class ships to shore. Air assets provided air tactical and logistical support throughout the amphibious and ground maneuvers. SN2 Mark Jade Autencio PN/AFP, Handout
Philippine and United States armed forces conduct a bilateral amphibious exercise (AMPHIBEX) on March 31, 2022 in the vicinity of Claveria, Cagayan Valley as part of the 37th iteration of Philippine-US Exercise Balikatan. AMPHIBEX involves the movement of assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) from L-class ships to shore. Air assets provided air tactical and logistical support throughout the amphibious and ground maneuvers. SN2 Mark Jade Autencio PN/AFP, Handout

MANILA — Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Monday she has reservations on the US' plan to build five additional military facilities in the Philippines under the two countries' Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

While she is open to the conduct of joint military drills, Hontiveros said the increased presence of American troops in the country is another story.

"Ayokong maipit tayo sa pagpili sa dating colonial master at sa bagong gustong maging regional or global as it were colonial master dito sa ating bansa," she told ANC's "Headstart".

Hontiveros instead hopes of having an independent and interdependent foreign policy with like-minded countries who will help the Philippines resolve tensions and prevent open conflict in the South China Sea.

In a virtual forum, retired Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, a former military intelligence chief, raised alarm on Washington's plan of having more facilities in different parts of the country.

He believed that the US' latest move is part of its government strategic plan amid its rivalry with China.

Corpus said this could also possibly create more tension in the region.

"Tayo ang maiipit sa gitna. We will become the battleground. The war can be nuclear in nature. We'll become the battlefield like what they are doing now in Ukraine," he said.

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines played down concerns on additional sites under EDCA.

"The purpose is so that the troops will have something to use during [military] exercises. It can be used to store supplies. There's nothing suspicious or anything that goes beyond it. It's solely for our troops' training with the US forces," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in an interview.

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The US military set up their naval and air presence in the Philippines in 1901 and 1903, respectively, as they took colonial control of the country, with Subic becoming the repair and supply yard of the US 7th Fleet that ruled the Pacific.

Clark became the headquarters of the 13th US Air Force.

The two bases were among the biggest employers in the Philippines for decades after World War II.

But the US fully closed its bases in 1992 after the Philippine Senate decided against the renewal of the two countries' 1947 Military Bases Agreement that expired in September 1991.

Nonetheless, with their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty still in effect, American troops have been allowed in the country on a rotational basis for training and some exercises with their Filipino counterparts.

The Philippine government has also granted wider access to American forces on Philippine military bases and facilities, including airfields and seaports, through EDCA that was signed in 2014.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse