Cagayan now supports Edca sites, says DND chief | Inquirer News

Cagayan now supports Edca sites, says DND chief

/ 05:35 AM March 21, 2023
Frank Kendall III STORY: Cagayan now supports Edca sites, says DND chief

FOR PH, US USE | United States Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III on Monday leads a groundbreaking ceremony for the runway rehabilitation of Basa Air Base in Pampanga province, one of the sites for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

BASA AIR BASE, Pampanga, Philippines — The province of Cagayan has welcomed the possibility of being included among the new locations to host American troops, the country’s acting defense chief said, despite the earlier opposition of its governor.

In a press conference here on Monday, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the officer in charge of the Department of National Defense (DND), said: “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.].”


“I told him that we have already decided, so he will conform with the decision,” Galvez added.

Two areas in Cagayan have been considered to be among the additional sites under the expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), a key military pact signed in 2014 that allows Washington to build facilities and preposition assets in strategic locations in the country.


Mamba had opposed the presence of foreign troops in his province and the conduct of live-fire exercises between American and Filipino troops.

He said 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.

Reached for comment on Monday, the governor maintained his opposition to Edca sites in his province, but said, “It’s the president’s call.”

Galvez said: “Almost all of the mayors [in the province] signified their intention to support Edca. I can show you the resolution of the different mayors that they love to have Edca sites in their area.”

Current locations

The United States has sought access to five locations—two in Cagayan, and one each in Zambales, Isabela, and Palawan provinces—which would allow US troops enough proximity to Taiwan and the West Philippine Sea, the exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

Manila and Washington will soon announce the new locations, after Marcos last month granted Washington access to four of these, apart from the five existing locations under the pact.

The president explained to Japanese media at that time that Subic Bay in Zambales — where the United States had maintained a naval base for almost five decades until 1991 — was not among the new sites.


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

‘Edca in action’

On Monday, Philippine and American officials led a groundbreaking ceremony for the runway rehabilitation of Basa Air Base, where fighter planes of the Philippine Air Force are stationed.

The 2,800-meter runway, which costs $24 million, is expected to be completed by September.

“This is truly Edca in action…. Our alliance is based on our [1951] Mutual Defense Treaty, and our respective nations’ shared commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson, who attended the groundbreaking.

“If the Mutual Defense Treaty is the ‘why,’ then Edca is the ‘how,’” she added.

To date, the United States has allocated over $82 million for its Edca sites, with Basa Air Base having the biggest allotment at $66.57 million.

‘Staging sites’

Visiting US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III said at the groundbreaking: “We are at an inflection point in history and our cooperation will help ensure we stay on the path to peace and stability.”

Apart from Mamba, Sen. Imee Marcos has also expressed concern over the expansion of Edca.

“I hope these sites won’t become military bases and above all, staging sites for an attack,” the president’s sister said in a press conference on Sunday in Puerto Princesa City.

Marcos, who heads the Senate foreign relations committee, noted earlier this month the locations of the new sites — which “clearly indicate… that [they are] the first line in the Taiwan attacks that are projected,” as she observed in a hearing by her committee on March 1.

Last week, the Chinese Embassy in Manila warned the Philippines against opening up additional Edca sites, as it questioned the new locations being considered for provinces “which are close to Taiwan.”

Following China’s takeover by Mao Zedong’s communist forces in 1949, Taiwan broke away from the mainland and developed a separate government over the decades.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to retake the island.

The senator said the increasing tensions between China and Taiwan are “not the Philippine interests in the West Philippine Sea.”

“Why should we fight the enemy of someone else? That’s what we’re afraid of. We’re not ready,” she said on Sunday.



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TAGS: Carlito Galvez Jr., Department of National Defense, EDCA sites, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Manuel Mamba
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