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New EDCA sites named in Cagayan, Isabela, Palawan

Malacañang on Monday announced the four additional Philippine military facilities that US forces will be given access to under the two countries' Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

According to the Presidential Communications Office, the new EDCA sites, considered "suitable and mutually beneficial," will be 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.

The Palace said these sites have been inspected and assessed by the Philippine military.

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. earlier said the national government has already reached out to local government units that have expressed apprehension about establishing EDCA sites in their localities.

Signed in 2014, EDCA grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, allows them to build facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels. Permanent basing is prohibited.

In February, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced a deal that gave American troops access to four more bases in strategic areas of the country, with the aim of accelerating the full implementation of EDCA.

The DND said these new EDCA locations would allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III had clarified that the US is not seeking to establish permanent bases in the Philippines.

The five current EDCA locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said she does not believe the new EDCA sites would be a "magnet" for conflict.

Carlson told GMA Integrated News that the new sites would instead enhance the security of the concerned local governments and usher in activities that could boost their local economies.

China has said the US was only using the EDCA with the Philippines for its geopolitical interests and to contain China.

“Peace and development remain the theme of this era and the call of peoples around the world. However, the US, to secure its hegemony and selfish geopolitical interests and out of the cold-war mentality, keeps upgrading military cooperation with the Philippines by adding EDCA bases and military deployment in this country,” the Chinese Embassy said.

In response, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said, "Of course, we note what they say but as I said, these are undertaken for our own bilateral concerns and not because of any extra-regional issue. We have made that point.” —AOL/NB/BM, GMA Integrated News