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MANILA, Philippines – A key agreement between the US and the Philippine militaries, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), is out of peril and so is the military alliance between the two countries.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously threatened to scrap EDCA, upheld the agreement during his bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump on Monday, November 13.
“The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, as reinforced by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” reads a joint statement on the bilateral meeting held on Monday.
EDCA is an agreement which allows the US military to construct facilities and preposition defense assets inside Philippine military bases. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of EDCA amid protests that it was a de-facto basing agreement. (READ: What is EDCA? Look at Zambo’s PH-US joint operations)
EDCA was forged under the administrations of the predecessors of Duterte and Trump, who saw the need for increased US presence of the US military in the Philippines to counter the aggressiveness of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Duterte and Trump also hit the “militarization” of the South China Sea in the joint statement that is expected to draw protests from China.
The US committed to continue helping modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines to improve its capabilities on maritime security and domain awareness and humanitarian assistance.
“They also reaffirmed their commitment to continue defense cooperation, including by reinforcing respective national defense capabilities and interoperability and enhancing joint activities, disaster response, and cybersecurity,” according to the joint statement.
Duterte had made a punching bag out of the US last year after the administration of then US President Barack Obama issued categorical criticisms against the human rights violations perpetrated in the name of his war on drugs.
Duterte showed a liking for Trump, however, who he said supported his campaign. (READ: Duterte, Trump agree ‘dignity of human life essential’)
The AFP asked Congress for money to fund initial ground work to implement EDCA.
The following military bases have been identified for the implementation of EDCA:
- Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City
- Camp Bautista in Palawan
- Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija
- Basa Air Base in Pampanga
- Lumbia Airport in Cagayan De Oro
In a budget deliberation in August, the AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año asked P124 million ($2.5 million*) for the country’s “counterpart fund.”
The AFP request is a “capital outlay fund” listed as “Construction and Enhancement of Base and Base Support Facilities.”
The improvements the US military plan to construct in the sites will eventually become properties of the Philippine military.
The national budget for 2018 has yet to be approved.
The Department of National Defense, which overseas the military, proposed a total budget of P195 billion for 2018, including P50 billion for the pension of retired enlisted personnel. – Rappler.com