Eyes 5 more military areas on top of other projects under EDCA
The United States is interested in building five more facilities in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro said.
Bacarro said these include—subject to vetting–two possible sites in Cagayan, one in Palawan, one in Zambales, and one in Isabela.
Finalized after eight rounds of talks in August 2013, the EDCA which was signed in 2014 allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to build facilities, and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.
Under the EDCA, the Philippine government is working with the United States 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; Antonio Bautista Airbase in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
The DND said $66.5 million has been earmarked for construction in three of these—training facilities and warehouses in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Cagayan de Oro—scheduled to begin in 2023.
DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong, in a statement Tuesday, said the DND is committed to accelerate the EDCA by concluding infrastructure enhancement and repair projects, and developing new infrastructure projects at existing EDCA locations.
This also includes exploring new locations that will build a more credible mutual defense posture.
DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. said these EDCA sites are only “training facilities and warehouses.”
“We already have five EDCA agreed locations and there are ongoing projects now and for the next two years, the concentration will be on the completion of the projects within EDCA during the MDB-SEB (Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board) held in Hawaii. There were some additional EDCA sites being considered,” he added.
Faustino said these still have to go through the process, which includes making sure they adhere to constitutional provisions.
Andolong added that the DND remains consistent in its position that all engagements with the US as well as other foreign partners must be conducted in accordance with the Constitution and other national laws.
“The Department is focused on planning joint activities that will enable us to develop our individual and joint capacity to address current security challenges in line with the implementing details provided by Philippines-US defense agreements anchored on the MDT. With the progress in Fort Magsaysay, Basa Air Base, and Antonio Bautista Air Base (in Palawan), the department hopes to be able to complete other pending projects,” Andolong said.