The United States has pledged US$100 million or over P5.5 billion for the acquisition of medium-lift helicopters for disaster response and non-combat operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Defense department officer in charge Carlito Galvez has said.
In a statement, Galvez said the US has also increased to US$100 million the funding for the Philippine military facilities which the US forces may access under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
"I am also pleased to share the US pledge of $100 million or P5.5-billion modernization assistance in this regard, which will be utilized for the acquisition of HADR-configured medium-lift helicopters for the disaster response and non-combat operations of our Armed Forces," Galvez said in a statement.
"The US has also increased the funding for the development of the EDCA sites from $82 million to $100 million, which is equivalent to another P5.5 billion. This brings the total of the US’s pledge of support for the HADR helicopters and EDCA projects to P11 billion," he added.
Galvez said the various projects at the EDCA sites, mostly for the warehousing and storage of humanitarian assistance and disaster response-related material, are scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.
There are at present five EDCA locations. They 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.
Philippine and US officials in early April announced the designation of four additional EDCA sites: the 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.
"As part of our efforts to prepare to respond to contingencies, the four additional EDCA sites are expected to serve as points for the evacuation of overseas Filipino workers in the event of a flare-up in the region's flashpoints," Galvez said.
"Our defense attachés have been working and coordinating with their host countries on possible repatriation operations, which can be undertaken with our US allies, should the need arise," he added.
Galvez said the naval bases in Balabac and in Camilo Osias are "to strengthen the maritime domain awareness and security, serving as stations and shelters for the radar local monitoring systems."
"These will also be a new asset, such as the Navy's offshore patrol vessels and corvettes which are now under construction, as well as the future multirole fighters for the Air Force," Galvez said.
Galvez said the deployment and the modernization of the AFP through the EDCA "shall boost our territorial defense capabilities and will enable our fisherfolk to freely pursue their livelihood in our waters."
On Wednesday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief Enrique Manalo said six of the 16 projects in the five initial EDCA locations would be completed this year.
In 2014, the EDCA was signed to grant US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, allowing them to build facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft, and vessels. —NB, GMA Integrated News