8 bases on table in Edca talks with US
TOP Philippine diplomats and defense officials will soon meet with their US counterparts to discuss the implementing details of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or Edca, between Manila and Washington, including the designation of at least eight local military bases for US use.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told the Inquirer Sunday that “the decision on which (military) bases will be used jointly by the Philippines and the US will be subject to mutual agreement between the two countries.”
“This is one of the matters that will be discussed during the forthcoming meeting of the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board” of the two allies,” he added.
Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, earlier said that Manila had offered Washington eight bases where it could build facilities to store equipment under the Edca: Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Clark Air Base, also in Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay in Palayan, Nueva Ecija; Camp Antonio Bautista and a naval base in Palawan; Camp Benito Ebuen and a naval base in Cebu, and Lumbia air field in Cagayan de Oro City.
Many of these facilities are already AFP “exercise sites,” he noted.
According to Padilla, “the list was prepared many months ago.”
The Americans are also seeking access to three seaports, including Subic Bay, the former US naval base in Zambales, and airfields on Luzon.
Last year, more than 100 US Navy ships reportedly docked at Subic, while two advanced nuclear-powered stealth submarines made visits in early January.
Last month, Philippine and US officials met in Washington to discuss locations Manila could provide access to US forces for their “mutual benefit.”
The high-level meeting was held at the Department of State hours after the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Edca signed by the two countries four years ago.
Brink of war
The pact allows American forces, warships and planes access to Philippine military camps.
China’s official Xinhua news agency, in an English language commentary, had warned that the Edca would only escalate tensions and “could push the situation to the brink of war.”
The Philippines “appears to be now turning to Uncle Sam to back its ambition to counter China,” the article said.
The deal, it claimed, was “groundless because China, which sticks to a defensive defense policy, has never coerced any country on the South China Sea issue.”
Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te explained that the high court’s ruling simply affirmed the rotational presence, not the permanent basing, of US troops in the country.
The decision was clear in saying that the Edca should remain within the bounds of both the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
The high court’s ruling declaring the Edca constitutional bolstered US efforts to assert its presence in Asia and dovetailed with Manila’s desire for American assistance in countering Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.
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