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US working with communities to show value of EDCA sites, says White House

WASHINGTON -  The United States is working closely with communities in the vicinity of the EDCA sites to showcase the benefits it could provide to residents in the area, a White House fact sheet said.

According to the White House, this aims to "fully realize their positive value for local development and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."

"To that end, the United States will expand our work in these communities and areas to support health, education, environmental protection, economic growth, and disaster preparedness," the White House said.

Malacañang had 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.

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

Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo has said six of the 16 projects in the five initial EDCA locations would be completed this year.

There had been concerns about these new EDCA sites, with China saying that the US only intends to use the latest sites to push for its interests and agenda “at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large.”

Manalo had said the Philippines would not allow the US to use the EDCA sites for activities against China in connection with the tension in the Taiwan Strait. —NB, GMA Integrated News