Philippine and US officials on Monday launched rehabilitation works at Pampanga's Basa Air Base, one of the sites designated for the Enhanced Cooperation Defense Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries.
Defense Department Officer in Charge Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. welcomed US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Loss Carlson to the groundbreaking for the $24-million airstrip extension and rehabilitation project at the air base in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
GMA Regional TV One North Central Luzon's Russel Simorio reported on 24 Oras that the project is expected to be completed by September.
"The facilities will contribute to the national effort in securing our country's sovereignty and integrity particularly in our maritime domain...The project will make Base Air Base an ideal for the efficient conduct of joint task force exercises," Galvez said.
EDCA, along with the Visiting Forces Agreement, operationalizes the 1951 Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). It allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities as well as the right to construct facilities and preposition equipment, aircraft and vessels, but rules out permanent basing. It was signed in 2014 but its implementation was delayed due to various reasons.
There are currently five sites previously agreed upon for the EDCA project, including Basa Air Base. Last month, the Philippines and the US agreed to designate four more sites in strategic areas of the country with the aim of accelerating the agreement's full implementation.
At the event, Galvez said that local governments in the provinces of Cagayan and Camarines Sur were open to having EDCA sites, though it has not yet been announced where the new sites will be built.
Galvez earlier said that the EDCA sites are meant for deterrence, not aggression. "We are not preparing for war; rather, we aim to develop our defense capabilities against eventualities and threats to our security," he said. — BM, GMA Integrated News