PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. yesterday maintained that the four additional sites under the Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with its longstanding ally, the United States, would not be used for “offensive actions.”
The President made this remark in a chance interview with reporters during his attendance at the commemoration of the 81st Araw ng Kagitingan at the Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan.
“Hindi tayo papayag, ang Pilipinas, hindi tayo papayag na gamitin ang mga bases natin para sa kahit anong offensive na action. Ito ay para lamang tulungan ang Pilipinas, pagka nangangailangan ng tulong ang Pilipinas (The Philippines will not allow to use our bases in any offensive action. It will be used once the Philippines is need of help),” Marcos said when asked whether the additional sites could “add tensions” in the region.
“Ang ginagawa lamang natin ay ipagpatuloy natin na pinapatibay natin ang depensa ng ating teritorya, ang pagdepensa ng Republika (What we are doing is to keep strengthening the defense of our territory, our Republic),” he added.
Marcos said the additional EDCA sites give the United States, which has a robust post-World War II security partnership with the Philippines, “a chance to be able to come and help us in any way.”
“Lahat ito existing na ‘yan. Mayroon na talaga tayong… kampo diyan na dati pa. At ang kaibahan lamang at sa ginawa natin dito ay ‘yung EDCA ay binibigyan natin ng pagkakataon ang ating mga (All these sites are already existing. And the only difference with what we did in this EDCA is that we give chance to) — our only treaty partner, which is the United States, we give the chance to be able to come and help us in any way, lalong-lalo na… nag-umpisa talaga ‘yan sa pagtulong sa mga disaster relief, ganyang klaseng bagay (especially for disaster relief operations, things like that),” the President said.
Malacanang earlier announced four locations considered “suitable and mutually beneficial” as EDCA sites that are seen to boost the disaster response of the country as the locations will also be used for humanitarian and relief operations during emergencies and natural disasters.
The four locations inspected and assessed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) include the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela and Balabac Island in Palawan.
Marcos granted in February US troops access to four more Philippine military camps on top of the five existing locations under the EDCA.
Filipino and American troops are also scheduled to hold their largest-ever military exercise this April.
EDCA NOT ‘GROSS VIOLATION OF PH SOVEREIGNTY’
Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) shrugged off claims that the Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDCA) with the United States does not constitute a “gross violation of our national sovereignty”.
“The EDCA, which is an offshoot of the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. The EDCA Agreed Locations are not permanent basing facilities for the US but will be jointly operated by the two sides, and their use by our treaty ally is subject to our permission and mutual agreement,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement over the weekend.
He also stressed that the EDCA sites primarily consist of storage facilities, which require minimum use of utilities since they will only be utilized during exercises and emergencies, and improvements on existing facilities owned and operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“In addition, the US is funding the construction and development of the EDCA Agreed Locations and, in doing so, is creating jobs and boosting the local economies of the communities where the sites are located,” Andolong said.
He also noted that improvements on EDCA sites are part of the efforts to enhance the capability of the Philippines to ensure its security.
“The DND reiterates that access to and use of EDCA Agreed Locations by US personnel is by invitation of the Philippines and is by no means ‘unhampered’ or ‘unimpeded.’ The Philippines retains sovereignty and responsibility over EDCA Agreed Locations,” the DND spokesperson stressed.
The Philippines earlier named Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan as additional EDCA locations. Philippine News Agency