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US, Philippines To Announce More Sites For Western Military Under Defense Agreement

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More sites for an expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which grants the Western power an opportunity to use military bases in the Philippines, will be announced by the United States and the Southeast Asian nation.

In addition to the five bases already authorized by the 2014 EDCA, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last month gave the United States access to four additional bases. This decision coincides with China’s escalating assertiveness toward Taiwan’s self-rule and the South China Sea.

US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the bilateral defense agreements were “not focused on any particular issue” while speaking in Manila at the Basa Air Base, one of the current EDCA sites.

Although it is not for always, EDCA grants the US access to Philippine bases for joint training, equipment prepositioning, and the construction of infrastructure like runways, fuel storage, and military housing.

The United States requested access to bases in Isabela, Zambales, and Cagayan, all of them being situated on the island of Luzon, looking northwards in direction of Taiwan, as well as on Palawan in the southwest, close to the contentious Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, according to a former military chief who spoke out publicly about the request. The Philippines has not yet formally identified the locations.

Carlito Galvez, the Philippines’ defense chief, and Kendall announced at a joint press conference that local officials at the potential EDCA sites had supported the government’s choice to grant the US greater access to the bases.

Leading the groundbreaking event for the runway restoration at Basa Air Base were Galvez and Kendall. In a speech, Kendall stated that “today’s event is a physical manifestation of our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a key pillar of the US-Philippine alliance,” adding that it was based on a seven-decade-old Mutual Defense Treaty that applied everywhere in the South China Sea.

“We are at an inflection point in history and our cooperation will help ensure we stay on the path to peace and stability,” he added. “Moving forward we hope the US will consider more EDCA projects,” Galvez said.

The United States has allotted $82 million for infrastructure improvements at the five current EDCA sites, part of which goes toward runway rehabilitation.

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