How does US ‘expanded military footprint’ benefit PH? Salceda asks
MANILA, Philippines —A lawmaker is curious about the full extent the Philippines will gain from the increased American “military footprint” in the country.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said Tuesday that it’s only fitting that Congress knows the details and specific circumstances that would compel the US to defend the Philippines.
“I’m glad Secretary Teodoro is now on board the administration because we have serious questions [about] maritime defense capabilities that need to be addressed in the 2024 budget. I will be sending in questions that I hope the DND (Department of National Defense), the National Security Adviser, and the Philippine Coast Guard can provide answers to during the budget hearings,” Salceda said in a statement Sunday.
“The US has dramatically expanded its military footprint in the Philippines, so it is important that lawmakers understand how, when, and to what extent that presence will be used. What counts as an act of aggression that the US will defend the Philippines from?” he also asked. “I think clarity on that scale is also a deterrent to would-be aggressors. Otherwise, what’s the point of having the US here with their big guns?”
Salceda, who also chairs the House committee on ways and means, noted the naming of four additional US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) sites in the Philippines, bringing the total to nine.
“I don’t think we should be content with the US’s policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ in Asia-Pacific. I support the reinvigorated partnership between our countries. But having more US bases here serves their security interests. It’s a fair price to ask for clarity,” Salceda pointed out.
The lawmaker, who is also chairperson of the House Committee on ways and means, referred to naming four additional US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) sites in the Philippines — bringing the overall number of Edca sites to nine.
“I don’t think we should be content with the US’s policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ in Asia-Pacific. I support the reinvigorated partnership between our countries. But having more US bases here serves their security interests. It’s a fair price to ask for clarity,” Salceda added.
Salceda further said it is important to know the country’s defense readiness especially after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed last Friday that Chinese fishing vessels were swarming around Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal, which are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“To the extent that discretion allows, it is the public’s interest to know what preparations are being made to defend our territorial waters and what resources are needed to ensure we are ready,” he said.
“So, what we really need from the DND is how much would it take to get us to adequate readiness. It doesn’t matter what we can afford. We can explore different sources. What matters is how far we have gone and what steps we still need to take,” he added.
The lawmaker, however, assured the defense establishment that he supports efforts to acquire advanced defense capabilities, considering the modernization program as an important step.
“This year, we will be acquiring US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and Indian BrahMos anti-ship cruise missiles. They have lethal capacity to maritime aggression. This is one of the most underreported accomplishments of the President, and I fully support him in this. We in Congress will make room in the budget and our foreign aid policy for this,” he said.
“PBBM(President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) is accomplishing many things under the radar. One of the major strides of his administration is AFP modernization. He’s able to do that because his emphasis on peacemaking and internal unity is allowing us to focus more on external threats,” he added. “Moving forward, my Committee also hopes to support with policy our capability to build ships, and a homegrown defense industry. Every decent military force has one.”