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Imee urges limits on number of US forces, length of stay under EDCA

Senator Imee Marcos on Tuesday called for certain limits in the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) including those on the number of US troops in the country and the length of their stay.

Marcos, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said having thousands of Americans conducting exercises daily is like the US forces already living in the country.

“Ang balita, kinakabahan kami sa Ilocandia, aabot daw ng 17,000 troops ang Amerikano at araw-araw daw gagawin…Sa palagay ko parang di na exercises ‘yan. Parang maninirahan na sila dito, ganun ba ‘yun?” Imee said.

(From what we heard in Ilocos, around 17,000 American troops will come and conduct military exercises every day… In my opinion, that’s not an exercise anymore. It’s like they will live here, is that right?)

“Siguro dapat mag limitasyon sa numero, may limitasyon din kumbaga sa visa. ‘Yung three-month visa, from 90-day visa para maliwanag na 'di sila nakapirmi dito sa atin at Pilipino pa rin ang mga sundalo na naninirahan sa iba’t ibang kampo,” she added.

(I think there should be limitations on their numbers and visa validity. It should be cleared if they are allowed for a three-month-visa or 90-day visa to make sure they are not basing here permanently and there are still Filipino soldiers in our bases.)

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

The administration last week announced the new military bases were located on Balabac Island in Palawan; Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; and Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, which are both near Taiwan and Benham Rise.

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.

On Monday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the EDCA sites would not be used for offensive actions and China should not see it as a threat against them.

“While we want a very strong American military presence in Asia and the Philippines, we should also safeguard our citizenry by making certain that the EDCA camps will never [be] used for staging areas of any attack against Taiwan or any other country,” Imee said.

She said her committee did not receive any argument or opposition on the treaty but explained “safeguards” should be put in place to prevent the country from being caught up in a “war unrelated to us.”

“We have no argument or opposition on file. So kinakailangan maliwanag, nakatakda sana sa EDCA lahat ng safeguards upang ang Pilipinas ay hindi naman madamay sa giyera na wala tayong kinalaman,”  the lawmaker said.

(We have no argument or opposition on file. But it should be clear, there should be safeguards under EDCA so the Philippines would not be caught up in a war unrelated to us.)

“Hindi tayo handa…We have no bomb shelters, or underground camps, we have no anti-missile forces and no anti-aircraft. In short, wala tayong gamit o protection,” she added.

(We’re not ready for any war. We have no bomb shelters, or underground camps, we have no anti-missile forces and no anti-aircraft. In short, we have no equipment or protection.)

China on Monday completed three days of military exercises that encircled Taiwan, with the aim of "sealing off" the self-ruled island, which views as its territory. Taiwan said it detected 12 Chinese warships and 91 jets on the last day of the drills.

Beijing's exercises were a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week, an encounter it had warned would provoke strong countermeasures. —NB/BM, GMA Integrated News

Tags: news, nation, EDCA, ph-us