With four more sites due to be added to the five already established under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, at least two questions have been raised.
One, will the communities where the EDCA sites will be put up approve of their presence there?
And two, won’t these facilities hosting troops and materiel US military bases incur China’s ire, given the increased tensions between the two superpowers in this part of the world over the Taiwan issue?
To the first question, it is now up to Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez to convince local government officials that EDCA presence in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Zambales and Palawan will benefit them rather than give them cause for worry.
In fact, Galvez has reported that Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has agreed to the establishment of an EDCA site in the province.
Mamba had earlier expressed misgivings about the plan to install an EDCA site in Cagayan, fearing that U.S. presence there could prove inimical to the interest of Cagayanons, and put them at risk in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that could invite American intervention.
According to the Defense Secretary, the provincial governor had decided to support the decision of President Marcos Jr. to allow the additional EDCA sites, with all of the mayors in the province having agreed as well to support the national government’s decision out of respect for the President.
The mayors had even signed a resolution that they agree to have EDCA sites in the province, only about 600 kilometers away from Taiwan.
To the second question, Secretary Galvez is correct in pointing out that the goal of EDCA and other security arrangements is to serve as a deterrent, and to develop defense capabilities against any eventuality and threats to national security.
The Defense chief pointed out that while he understands the reservations of some government officials over the additional EDCA sites, “we must consider the volatile situation in which we operate and not view our country in isolation.”
The reality is that the country occupies a crucial location in the Pacific, with seaboards to the north, south, east and west: “All of these must be monitored and protected. As a nation, we renounce war as a foreign policy. However, we are committed to exhaust all available means and the resources available to us to defend the national interest.”
EDCA is part and parcel of the country’s commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the Philippines and the United States in 1951.
The treaty binds the two countries to support each other in the event of an attack by an external party. It’s a mutual agreement that should give us comfort instead of distress.