MANILA — Almost 8 years since the Philippines and United States signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the 2 countries recently identified 4 new bases that the global superpower's military can use in the Southeast Asian country, in a move seen as an attempt to counter China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific.
With this, the total number of EDCA sites scattered across the Philippines is now at 9.
But what exactly is this agreement and how has it impacted the Philippines over the years? Here are some fast facts, according to the United States Embassy in Manila:
- The EDCA was signed during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III on April 28, 2014. The deal was signed between then-Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and then-US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
- The agreement enables the US and Philippine militaries to train together, respond to natural and humanitarian crises, and achieve modernization goals.
- The Philippines retains sovereignty and control over EDCA sites.
- The Philippines and US identify EDCA sites together, with final approval coming from the Philippine government.
- The United States has allocated over $82 million (P4.469 billion) for projects in existing EDCA bases.
Since the EDCA signing in 2014, the Philippines has granted the US access to 5 military bases: 3 in Luzon, one in Visayas, and another one in Mindanao.
- Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija
- Basa Air Base, Pampanga
- Antonio Bautista Air Base, Palawan
- Mactan-Benito Abuen Air Base, Cebu
- Lumbia Air Base, Cagayan de Oro
According to the US Embassy, the American government has so far allocated $11.4 million to Fort Magsaysay, $66.57 million to Basa Air Base, $1.8 million for Antonio Bautista Air Base, $2.7 million for Mactan-Benito Abuen Air Base, and $3.7 million for Lumbia Air Base.
Various projects have been implemented in the 5 bases, including warehouses for humanitarian assistance and disaster response, command and control infrastructures, and fuel storage facilities.
On April 3, 4 new bases were identified as EDCA sites, all of them located in Luzon.
- 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
Two of the camps in Cagayan are at the northernmost tip of Luzon, just a few hundred kilometers away from Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
Because of this, 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 could 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 President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The 4 new sites were named almost 2 months after the Philippines announced that it would grant the US expanded access to its military bases.
The Philippines, a former US colony, has had historically strong ties with the superpower, with a mutual defense treaty signed by both countries in 1951.