Default Thumbnail

Imee questions EDCA bases purpose

April 19, 2023 Camille P. Balagtas 230 views

SENATOR Imee Marcos questioned the Philippine defense officials on the objectives of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.

Leading the Senate panel’s inquiry into the 2014 defense agreement yesterday, Senator Marcos asked on the intent of the alliance vis-a-vis the government’s plan to build more EDCA bases, saying the sites chosen were “random and no longer purposeful” regarding the efforts to modernize the Philippines’ armed forces.

Modernization, she stressed, should be the primary goal in the EDCA’s implementation, besides disaster preparedness, maritime security, and counterterrorism.

“Are we going to just rely on foreigners to defend us while our armed forces remain neglected, outdated…and completely abject in the face of any external threats?” Marcos said.

Similarly, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian raised the question as to the end goal of EDCA.

He asked the reasons and criteria for choosing the locations where the US troops will have access under the EDCA.

At least four locations had earlier been identified as additional EDCA sites: Camilo Osias Naval Base in Sta Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan.

In the hearing of the Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by Senator Marcos, Gatchalian asked if the four EDCA sites are strategic for the Philippines and the Filipino people and not strategic for the United States.

EDCA is for humanitarian and disaster-response purposes, Gatchalian pointed out, adding there are other areas that are more disaster-prone than the four locations chosen as additional EDCA sites for purposes of quick response.

“That’s why I’m looking for the end-goal. If the end-goal is to help capacitate ourselves or to ward off terrorism, I assume that the [EDCA] sites will be located in areas where we need to strengthen our capacities. That’s why I’m looking for the end-goal,” Gatchalian said.

National Security adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. who attended the hearing explained the reasons for choosing the four additional EDCA sites, three of which are located in Northern Luzon.

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said: “When we are discussing with our counterparts, the end product is an annex to EDCA, so we don’t even attempt to change the terms of EDCA, this is just an annex to be cleared…we are making the commitment that no matter how extensive the discussions are, there will be no attempt, desires, or intention to change any word in EDCA or the agreement.”