MANILA — A local thinktank on Wednesday urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to reconsider allowing the United States to access Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
In a forum in Quezon City, journalist Adolfo Paglinawan said Marcos Jr. is placing "his own country in extreme harm's way with extreme prejudice" after some of the newly identified EDCA sites caught China's attention.
Paglinawan, who is the internal vice president of thinktank Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies, also warned that "there is war in the horizon" amid brewing tensions on the Taiwan Strait.
"The probability of war is where the US is positioning," he said.
China earlier noted that two of the EDCA sites identified last April were only a few hundred kilometers away from Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island it claims as part of its territory.
"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.
Professor Anna Malindog-Uy, the thinktank's external vice president, said the so-called "Taiwan question" is a non-negotiable issue to China.
"This is a reminder for our government officials. we don't want to be involved in the Taiwan issue," she said.
Former Senator Francisco Tatad, for his part, also argued that EDCA was contrary to a provision in the constitution which states that no foreign troops, bases, or facilities must be allowed in the Philippines after 1991.
"They are not [American] bases, but they function as such, so it violates the provision on extraterritoriality. Binigyan natin ang kapangyarihan ang Amerika na manirahan sa ating estado," Tatad said.
US ENVOY DEFENDS EDCA
But US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson reiterated on ANC that the EDCA sites were "not US bases."
"These are Philippine military bases where we provide funding and insert capital to make improvements that are to the benefit of both the Philippine military and [will] also be helpful to the US military in the event that any threat against either 1 of the 2 members of this mutual defense treaty alliance," Carlson said earlier Wednesday.
She also clarified that the US can only use the sites "for whatever the Philippine government invites the US to do."
"Everything that we do in the Philippines is at the invitation of the Philippine government," Carlson said.
The American envoy also cited a public opinion survey "where the vast majority of filipinos are not just in support of the partnership with the US but specifically EDCA sites."
"We've also seen many mayors signing letters within that same province, encouraging the construction that EDCA sites bring. There's also residual economic benefits that come from that," she said.
"We are hiring local workers... We hire locally, those people buy lunch at the work site, they live in the area. It's an injection into the economy as well and it shows our commitment to the defense and prosperity."
Marcos Jr. himself had said that he would not allow the EDCA sites to be used for any offensive attacks, as the bases would only be used "to help the Philippines when it needs help."
As of writing, there are now 9 Philippine bases that the US are allowed to use under EDCA. Four of them were identified last April, namely, the 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.