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AFP says it's possible to expand EDCA sites further: We need 360° protection

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Sunday that further establishing Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in Philippine territory is possible to add more protection capability for the troops. 

Interviewed on Super Radyo dzBB, AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar expressed hope that the expansion of the EDCA sites with the US would continue, in light of the conduct of the largest Balikatan military exercises.

“Ito po ay posible, palagay ko, kasi nga [I think this is possible because] what we want to protect, because we are an archipelagic country…if we are to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the protection of maritime resources that should be enjoyed by our people, we need 360-degree protection capability for the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

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.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the four additional EDCA sites would not be used for offensive actions.

The five existing 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.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, however, questioned the locations of EDCA sites as well as the supposed disregard on some concerned areas in the country.

Committee chairperson Senator Imee Marcos said the selected locations seem to be “random” and “no longer purposeful” for the modernization of the AFP.

Aguilar, however, maintained that the selection of EDCA sites underwent a strategic process and was based on what the country needs.

“Ito ay ayon siyempre sa mga nangyayaring developments sa ating bansa at ayon na rin sa nakikita nating kakulangan na dapat ay mapunuan. Ang pagpili ay isinagawa rin to primarily, ito ay rekomendasyon na nanggagaling sa atin kasi tayo ay may sinusundan na roadmap para sa modernization program ng AFP,” he said.

(This was according to the developments happening in our country and on what we deem as still lacking that should be filled. The choice was also made in our recommendation based on the roadmap for the modernization program of the AFP.)

The Philippines’ western and eastern seaboards were also considered in locating the new EDCA sites, Aguilar added.

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. —KG, GMA Integrated News