Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has indicated that the four new additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites will be located in the northern and southern parts of the country.
Marcos said Filipino and American officials have already identified and agreed on the new sites under the EDCA and would soon make a formal announcement.
The goal is to defend the country’s eastern coast, noting that the Philippines’ continental shelf on Luzon’s eastern side was also put into consideration, he said at a press conference after attending the 126th Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Army in Taguig City, March 22.
When asked if he has reached out to local government officials who are opposed to having the EDCA sites in their localities, Marcos said he talked to those officials and explained the importance of the EDCA sites in their jurisdictions.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the officer in charge of the Department of National Defense (DND), was earlier quoted as saying in local media that: “we have already talked to Governor [Manuel] Mamba. He said that as long as the national government has decided, he will abide [by] the decision of… President [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.].”
The Cagayan Mayor was reported as saying that he had opposed the presence of foreign troops in his province and the conduct of live-fire exercises between American and Filipino troops, saying that Cagayan could be dragged into a potential conflict over Taiwan, the country’s neighboring island state in the north, and risk economic investments from China, which he saw as a friendly partner.
President Marcos last month granted US troops access to four more Philippine military camps, on top of the five existing locations under the EDCA.
Finalised after eight rounds of talks in August 2013, the EDCA, which was signed in 2014 during the administration of President Benigno Aquino, allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, and the right to build facilities and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels.
The agreement also allows the United States to rotate troops into the Philippines for extended stays. Under the EDCA agreement the US is not allowed to establish any permanent bases. Under the EDCA, the Philippine government is working with the US to build the future facilities in Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
The EDCA is a key pillar of the US-Philippines alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between Filipino and American forces. The EDCA is a supplemental agreement to the previous Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). – pn/mhi/mgm (Pix: Balikatan/USMC)