US: New EDCA sites to allow US, PH to respond ‘more seamlessly” to shared challenges

The designation of four more Philippine military facilities that may soon be accessed by US forces under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will allow the two countries’ armed forces to “respond more seamlessly” to challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the US Department of Defense said Monday.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that the modernization projects at the four new sites would be rapidly pursued.

“In addition to the five existing sites, these new locations will strengthen the interoperability of the US and Philippine Armed Forces and allow us to respond more seamlessly together to address a range of shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including natural and humanitarian disasters,” it said.

“The Department of Defense will work in lockstep with the Philippine Department of National Defense and Armed Forces to rapidly pursue modernization projects at these locations,” it added.

The Pentagon said it planned to “expand funding” for the infrastructure investments on top of the $82 million already allocated to the existing EDCA sites.

“In addition to supporting Alliance commitments, these investments will also spur economic growth and job opportunities in their respective provinces,” the US defense department said.

Signed in 2014, the treaty grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities and allows them to build facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft, and vessels. Permanent basing is prohibited.

The five initial EDCA locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.

In February, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced a deal that gave American troops access to four more bases in strategic areas of the country, to accelerate the full implementation of EDCA.

On Monday, Malaca?ang named these proposed additions to the EDCA program: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan.

The Palace said these sites had been inspected and assessed by the Philippine military.

The DND said these new EDCA locations would allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also said the government already reached out to the local government units that have expressed concerns about having EDCA sites in their localities.

Last month, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson announced the US earmarked over $80 million in funding for several projects at the EDCA sites. Among these is the $24-million airstrip extension and rehabilitation project at the Basa Airbase in Floridablanca, Pampanga, for which officials from both countries broke ground on March 20, 2023.

The US defense department said it was “committed to ensuring its activities around EDCA sites are responsive to the needs and priorities of local communities, and we will continue to consult closely with the Philippines on new opportunities that serve our shared interests.”

“The United States and the Philippines have stood shoulder-to-shoulder as friends and allies for more than seven decades, unwavering in our treaty commitments and our shared vision for a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous region,” it said.

“The strides we are making to expand the EDCA and modernize the alliance will ensure this vision endures far into the future,” it added. –NB/BM, GMA Integrated News

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