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Biden seeks additional $128M for EDCA sites projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. — US President Joe Biden has requested an additional $128 million for infrastructure projects in 2025, which will include those located in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites.

The augmentation is included in the US President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025 to Congress.

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will launch a new initiative in the coming year, which will preposition humanitarian relief commodities at an EDCA site.

“Prepositioning of commodities, combined with strengthened Philippines’ humanitarian assistance and disaster response capacity, including for EDCA-hosting communities, will contribute to greater crisis resilience and more effective crisis response,” the fact sheet read.

The developments were also relayed by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. during a visit to the Pentagon on Friday.

“President Biden’s new pleasant request seeks $128 million to execute 36 projects and enhance defense cooperation agreement size and that would more than double the amount we’ve invested in EDCA infrastructure,” Austin said.

“All these underscore the strength of our alliances further, and so I look forward to hearing your views on how we can keep working together more closely than ever, including through cooperation with like-minded partners,” he added.

Signed in 2014, the EDCA provides for US and Philippine militaries to train together, with sites increased to nine in 2023 from five previously, a move that has riled China.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has allocated $109 million toward infrastructure projects at EDCA sites since 2014, including $59 million for airfield improvement at the Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga.

The White House said USAID, in partnership with the DoD, will also boost civilian-military disaster response training to improve the fluency in response systems between Philippine and US civilian and military agencies and international humanitarian organizations.

“This visit here to the Pentagon reaffirms once again the strength of the relationship between the United States and the Philippines in the face of all the threats and challenges that we have had to face together,” Marcos said.

“The Philippines is always able to look to the United States for support and we hope that this trilateral agreement,  which we formalized yesterday will be a formalization of an added multilateral support and structure that will make the safety, the peace and the stability of the South China a reality and continued to be a reality,” he added.

This comes on the heels of the Trilateral Leaders Summit on Thursday among President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“I view the new agreements and the new partnerships, and alliances that we have forged including the trilateral agreement, not as a response to any particular challenge or threat but merely a continuing development and evolution of the relationship that we have been fostering over a hundred years,” Marcos said.

Following the summit, leaders of the three countries released a Joint Vision Statement indicating the possibility of more combined naval training and exercises together, with Manila set to receive support for its defense modernization priorities.—LDF, GMA Integrated News