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China: New EDCA sites may draw Philippines into Taiwan conflict

China on Thursday mentioned a concern "shared by many in the Philippines" as regards the country getting drawn into a "potential conflict" in the Taiwan Strait after the designation of new EDCA sites in Luzon.

Mao Ning, the spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made the remark when she was asked in a news conference to comment on Defense department officer in charge Carlito Galvez who said the new EDCA sites were for the defense of the Philippines and the region.

"The comments on the locations of the new military bases also speak to the concern shared by many insightful people in the Philippines, who worry that this may draw their country into the whirlpool of a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait," Mao said.

Mao said the issue of Taiwan question was internal to China and that it was not the Chinese side heightening cross-Strait tensions, "but the 'Taiwan independence' forces in the island and certain countries that support these forces."

"We hope regional countries could see clearly who is fueling tensions across the Taiwan Strait for what purpose and will not pull someone else’s chestnuts out of fire at their own expense," Mao said.

US access to PH military facilities

EDCA sites are Philippine military facilities to which US forces will have access under the two countries' Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in 2014. 

The two sides have agreed to designate four new EDCA sites, three of which are in the northern portion of Luzon. These are the Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Isabela, the Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, and the Camilo Osias Naval Base also in Cagayan.

A fourth EDCA site has been designated on Balabac island in Palawan near the South China Sea.

There are already five existing EDCA locations. These are the 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.

‘National interest, collective defense’

In a statement on Wednesday, 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," Galvez said. —NB, GMA Integrated News