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Zubiri favors new EDCA sites amid 'bullying' in WPS

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday said he is in favor of the establishment of new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites amid "bullying" in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"I have no problem with EDCA sites. This issue came about because of our problem in the West Philippine Sea," Zubiri said in an interview with reporters.

"Siguro kung wala tayong problema sa West Philippines Sea at walang nambubully sa atin, we can probably disregard having EDCA sites. But at this point of time, there’s a big bully harassing ang ating mga mangingisda, harassing ang ating mga coast guard, harassing itong mga nanggugulo sa ating mga navy boats, navy airplanes, air force planes, nagpapadala tayo ng pagkain sa Pag-asa Island bilang isang municipality ng Palawan," he added.

He explained that these new EDCA sites will help the Philippine defense forces in protecting our territories.

"If we didn’t have bullies in our borders, then I don’t think we need EDCA sites. Unfortunately, today, we have bullies in our borders, palapit nang palapit ng Pilipinas. Kailangan natin ng tulong ng lahat ng ating mga kaalyado na mga bansa na nagmamahal ng demokrasya, and freedom of navigation in the area," he added.

The Senate chief made the remark the same day Senator Imee Marcos questioned the reported establishment of new EDCA sites in provinces in North Luzon.

"Kung may mangyari sa Taiwan at papasukan ng China 'yong Taiwan, sigurado kasali din ang Pilipinas d'yan, dahil, syempre, gaano kalayo po 'yong Taiwan sa Pilipinas?" Zubiri said.

"Sa Cagayan province siguro wala pang less than an hour flight, and by boat it's probably less than six hours by slow boat, by pump boat, so you'll see an influx of possible—kung nagkagulo sa region na 'yan—you'll see an influx of refugees to the Philippines, and hindi natin alam kung anong mangyayari," he added.

Zubiri said we need a "staging point" to rescue our fellow Filipinos in Taiwan if there's going to be a conflict between Taiwan and China.

The Senate president said he believes that the constituents of Northern Luzon provinces are in favor of the creation of new EDCA sites but they need to be consulted first.

He made the statement even though Senator Marcos echoed the opposition of the governors of Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, and Isabela.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said the new EDCA sites must be located in the islands in the WPS.

"If the Americans will insist for additional EDCA sites, how I wish na some of their sites will be placed doon sa islands sa West Philippine Sea natin para makatulong sila doon sa pagbabantay ng ating teritoryo," Dela Rosa said at Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

"Sana doon sila kasi ito nga may problema 'yung local government ng Cagayan Valley na ayaw nila malagay doon ang EDCA...Kung ayaw nila Palawan, off Palawan coast. Forward pa sila doon sa Kalayaan Island [Group]," he added.

In February, the Philippines and the United States agreed to designate four new sites in strategic areas of the country with the aim of accelerating the full implementation of the EDCA.

Signed in 2014, EDCA grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels, but rules out permanent basing. The Philippine Constitution outlaws foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.—AOL, GMA Integrated News