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New EDCA sites to enhance efforts vs external, internal threats — DND, AFP

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday said the EDCA sites designated in four new locations will enhance the posture of government forces against external and internal security threats.

In a statement, the DND and AFP said the EDCA sites with the United States will further improve the Philippines’ capabilities to protect its national interests and contribute to the collective defense in the region.

"Aside from enhancing our posturing of forces to address both external and internal security threats and challenges, we expect the construction of facilities and infrastructure upgrades to further help us ensure the welfare of our people," Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

He added the AFP's strengthened presence in the new locations, especially along the eastern and western seaboards, will enable the troops to quickly respond to distress calls, and protect the fishermen's rights and livelihood to fish in the country's waters.

On Monday, Malacañang announced the four additional Philippine military facilities that US forces will be given access to under the EDCA signed by the two countries.

These are 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.

For the DND and AFP, the implementation of EDCA projects  aims to respond to disasters, humanitarian assistance and climate change.

It also aims to protect the lanes of commerce in the West Philippine Sea and the country’s national interests on its eastern side and the Philippine Rise.

"The new EDCA sites will not just strengthen the AFP’s capability to protect the people and the state but it will also boost the disaster response capability of the country," said AFP chief of staff General Andres Centino.

He added they shall be closely coordinating with their counterparts in the US Armed Forces for the realization of the objectives.

Galvez said the Philippines shall continue to pursue efforts with the US and other like-minded nations towards "collective defense in order to maintain peace, freedom of movement, and prosperity."

“Additionally, EDCA projects are also seen to benefit the Philippines economically through the provision of jobs and other economic opportunities in the construction activities in the Agreed Locations and procurement of local goods and supplies by the US military and personnel,” he said.

On Tuesday, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba reiterated his stance against establishing a new EDCA site in their province as he expressed fear that the base could become a "magnet" for attacks by US adversaries.

China also warned that the US was "endangering regional peace and stability" with a new deal expanding American troops' access to bases in the Philippines.

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.—Joviland Rita/AOL, GMA Integrated News