Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday described the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites as strategic choices.
The Palace earlier announced the four new proposed EDCA sites: 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.
"Very significant. One is, alam naman natin, one is 'yung dito sa Naval Base Osias kasi 'yun ang nakita na talagang medyo nakita namin na very strategic and also in Balabac, kasi ang Balabac nasa SLOCs [sea lines of communication] natin 'yan e, diyan dumadaan 'yung ano," Galvez said.
"Kasi tingnan mo rin 'yung responsibility natin sa international community, especially sa West Philippine Sea, diyan dumaan ang ano natin, trade route na more or less $3 trillion and our responsibility on collectively securing that, napakalaki, napakalaki, trillion, that's trillions," he added.
Galvez said the DND is happy with the announcement and that it thanked President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
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.
Galvez said the sites were "collectively decided" by the Philippines and the United States. He added that the construction would begin "immediately."
"Actually 'yan ang hinihintay ng ano, hinihintay ng ating counterpart so that we can immediately make necessary recommendation kasi it will be budgeted by the Congress, their Congress," Galvez said.
The DND had said the new EDCA locations would allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines and other shared challenges.
The government does not want the establishment of these sites to be taken politically, Galvez said, which could include the interpretation that the US is seeking to establish permanent bases in the Philippines.
"That's one, secondly is we don't want na maging ano siyang, parang ano 'yan eh permanent basing, so 'yun ang inaano natin na talagang ano natin dito is basically, these are army camps at saka mga ano, mga army and navy and air force camps na predominantly we occupy, ating bases talaga 'yun," he said.—LDF/BM, GMA Integrated News