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Palawan gov’t welcomes selection of Balabac Island as EDCA site

The Palawan provincial government on Tuesday expressed support for the inclusion of Balabac Island among the four new proposed locations to be used for the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US.

In a press statement, Palawan Provincial Information Officer Atty. Christian Jay V. Cojamco said the provincial government believes the new EDCA sites will enhance the mobility of the two countries in responding to various challenges in the Indo-Pacific Region, especially on issues related to humanitarian and relief operations.

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

The five current 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.

In February, the Department of National Defense announced a deal that gave American troops access to four more bases in strategic areas of the country, with the aim of accelerating EDCA's full implementation.

On Monday, the government announced that the four new proposed sites are 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.Malacañang announced Monday.

“The newly identified sites will also be beneficial to our country as it will be used as storage and warehouse facilities in times of disasters,” Jamco said.

“As a key pillar of the US-PH alliance, this agreement will support combined training, exercises, and interoperability between the two countries and help accelerate the modernization of its combined military capabilities,” he added.

Jamco said the provincial government will coordinate with the national government to “ensure that the development of the sites will be mutually beneficial to both countries especially in achieving its shared vision to a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous region while also putting a premium on the safety and welfare” of the residents.

Also on Tuesday, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba repeated his opposition to having an EDCA site in the province. “As I previously said it is the President's call but I disagree and continuously oppose EDCA sites in Cagayan because they are magnets of attack by US adversaries due to the presence of foreign forces (US Armed Forces),” he told GMA News Online in a message. — Sundy Locus and Joviland Rita/BM/KG, GMA Integrated News