The government has just announced and finally identified the four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the country. The new EDCA locations which were ostensibly inspected and assessed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are the Camilo Osias Naval Base in Sta. Ana Cagayan, the Balacbac Island in Palawan, Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela and Lay-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan. These new four locations are on top of the previous five locations earlier identified for the EDCA which are the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan De Oro City in Mindanao.
It can be recalled that in February 1, 2023 the Philippines and the United States of America came out with this joint statement on the additional four EDCA sites that will be added to the five existing ones, “Today, the Philippines and the United States are proud to announce their plans to accelerate the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the agreement to designate four new Agreed Locations in strategic areas of the country and the
substantial completion of the projects in the existing five Agreed Locations. The EDCA
is a key pillar of the U.S.- Philippines alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between our forces.
Expansion of the EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate
modernization of our combined military capabilities. The addition of these new EDCA locations will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges. The United States has allocated over $82 million toward
infrastructure investments at the existing five sites under the EDCA, and is proud that these investments are supporting economic growth and job creation in local Philippine communities.
The United States and the Philippines have committed to move quickly in agreeing to the necessary plans and investments for the new and existing EDCA locations. The Philippine-U.S. Alliance has stood the test of time and remains ironclad. We look forward to the opportunities these new sites will create to expand our cooperation together.” Now if you read carefully the joint statement you will notice that the reason used to justify the additional locations is to supposedly accelerate the full
implementation of the EDCA and if so that being the case, perhaps in the interest of transparency perhaps both governments can disclose to the public details on what has already been implemented with respect to the EDCA.
We know from the announcement of both governments that there is already over 82 million dollars
or 4.476 billion pesos poured by the US of A into the so called development (infrastructure investments) and perhaps modernization, of the five earlier locations identified for the EDCA. The public will definitely be interested to know where this money went or how it has been implemented.
Going back to these EDCA sites it is interesting to note that a majority of these locations are air bases or airports and it can therefore be surmised that the US intends to pre-position combat aircraft and other types of military airplanes in these air bases or airports.
This is presumably to expand the air superiority of the US here in South East Asia as it continues to actively respond to the expansionist plans of China in the West Philippine Sea (a.k.a. the South China Sea). But not only that, the enhanced presence of the US here in Philippine soil also sends a strong message to the neighboring country of Taiwan in the event that China will make good on its promise to eventually “unify” Taiwan with the mainland. By being here in the country the US and its military provides assurance to Taiwan that it stands ready to defend it should China proceeds to invade the small island nation.
So if EDCA is to be implemented smoothly there is a necessity for both governments to be transparent with how they develop these EDCA sites along with guarantees that when, and not if, the US military and their armaments and equipment are later on brought to these locations it will not include nuclear weapons which is expressly prohibited by the Philippine constitution. And in all of these the key words behind the EDCA has always been an alliance between the Philippines and the US for their mutual defense and support. We can only hope that the country will stand to actually benefit from the $82 million infrastructure investments on the previous five EDCA sites which according to the joint statement will “support economic growth and job creation in the local
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