MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has chosen the four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) sites for its own national interests, not because it was dictated by the United States, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said on Friday.
Año said the government is concerned about improving its defense capability, modernizing equipment and assets, and developing the country’s military infrastructure.
“These are the primary reasons why we are increasing our security cooperation with the United States,” Año said in a statement.
“The identified Edca sites are Philippine bases that we want to develop based on the requirements for strategic basing and development of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). These were not US-dictated but identified by our armed forces,” he added.
‘Positive contribution’ to regional peace
Año also said the government’s move to develop military and base infrastructure through Edca is the country’s contribution to the peace and stability of the region.
“By developing our military and base infrastructure, we are pursuing our national interest and actually contributing to regional peace and stability,” Año said.
“We hope that our neighbors in the region will see this as a positive contribution towards peace and stability in the region,” he added.
Año made the statement in light of the recent opposition expressed by lawmakers and local government executives on the installation of Edca sites in the country.
Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba opposed the installation of the Edca facility in his province, stressing that the United States should not use the country, which he said is only after its interests in Taiwan.
READ: Cagayan gov now OK with Edca site, other local gov’t execs ‘very amenable’ — Galvez
Likewise, Senator Imee Marcos questioned possible locations earlier named by the military in Northern Luzon, which she said is just a “stone’s throw” away from Taiwan.
READ: Imee Marcos questions new Edca sites: Why a stone’s throw away from Taiwan?
The military previously named Cagayan, Zambales, Isabela, and Palawan as possible Edca sites. Notably, these areas face Taiwan up north (Cagayan, Zambales and Isabela) as well as the South China Sea (Palawan).
READ: Military names 5 more Edca sites
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has also confirmed that the four Edca sites will rise in the northern and southern parts of the country.
READ: Marcos confirms: Edca sites to rise in ‘north, south’ parts of PH and in Palawan
To date, there are five pre-determined Edca sites – Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, which is closest to the Kalayaan Group of Islands; Basa Air Base in Pampanga, the home of the Philippine Air Force’s fighter planes; and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the country’s largest military camp and a frequent location of Philippine-US military exercises.
The other two areas are Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.
The Edca, signed in 2014 under then President Benigno S. Aquino’s administration, allows US to forces rotate through Philippine military bases and also store defense equipment and supplies.
Edca is part of the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty’s (MDT) commitments.
Signed by two parties on August 30, 1951, the MDT states that both countries would support each other if an external party attacked the Philippines or the United States.