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AFP eyes building refueling facility in Cagayan EDCA site

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday called for the construction of an overhead refueling facility in the EDCA site at Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan.

In a statement, the AFP pointed out the need to fast-track the construction of facilities in the EDCA sites with the United States (US) considering the urgent demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) requirements in the Philippines.

“Lal-o Airport is currently being used as refueling sites for Philippines and US aircraft. Currently, fuel comes from 55-gallon drums. An overhead refueling facility needs to be constructed,” the AFP said.

“Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations would be facilitated in the event of natural or man-made emergencies,” it added.

The military organization made the statement ahead of the scheduled visit of AFP chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. to the EDCA site in Cagayan.

Considering the proximity of the site to Taiwan, Teodoro was asked if the US may use the area for refueling.

“You know what if its proximity to Taiwan is a geographical accident and other people are paranoid about it, it's their problem. For me my concern is the Philippines’ national interest and security,” Teodoro told reporters during the visit.

He added that the Philippines will put bases, not necessarily EDCA, throughout the archipelago as they pursue an “Archipelagic Doctrine.”

“We have to protect that,” he said.

“So the paranoia of other people, may be rightly so, is taken into consideration but national security is paramount in this country and we have reassured other countries in the world that the Philippines is not allowed by the Constitution to wage war or any offensive action as an instrument of national policy,” he added.

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 preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels.

In February, the Philippines and the US agreed to designate four new sites in strategic areas of the country with the aim of accelerating the full implementation of the EDCA.

These will be established in 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.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba in April opposed this as he expressed fear that the area could become a "magnet" for attacks by US adversaries.

Before this, there were five existing EDCA sites: 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. —VAL/RSJ, GMA Integrated News