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Over $100M allotted for EDCA sites in PH for 2023 —US Defense chief Austin

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) said they are expecting to allocate a total of $100 million for the infrastructures at the EDCA sites in the Philippines by the end of the year.

“We're proud of investments we're making. And by the end of [Fiscal Year 2023], we expect to have allocated more than $100 million in infrastructure investments at the new and existing EDCA sites,” he said at a press conference in Washington.

According to Austin, these investments will spur job creation and economic growth in Philippine communities.

Signed in 2014, EDCA, or the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, allows them to build facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft, and vessels.

Asked about the number and positioning of US military personnel and assets in these EDCA sites, Austin said it is still "a bit early" to discuss such details.

"I think it's a bit early to discuss numbers and specific timing of rotations, but certainly these are things [Philippine Defense] Secretary [Carlito] Galvez and I continue to work on going forward. But again, it is a tremendous opportunity," he said.

Austin noted that the number and positioning of military personnel and assets will be a joint decision of the US and the Philippines.

Asked on how the EDCA sites will be used if the US and China go to war over Taiwan and if there would be restrictions on what the US can do at these sites, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said,
"In operationalizing these sites, of course, much work still has to be done."

"We have to identify the term and references, how these activities will be undertaken," Manalo said in the same briefing.

“So, I don't think we're really at any stage to answer how they might be used, it is still open for discussion,” he added.

Malacañang recently announced four new 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.

Existing EDCA sites 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. —KBK, GMA Integrated News