MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine defense establishment is expecting the US to start in 2017 construction of facilities in at least 3 military bases, an implementation of the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the previous Aquino administration.
"EDCA is still on and according to the Pentagon, they will start constructing some facilties in the EDCA chosen camps," said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday, January 26.
Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte, who had threatened to scrap the deal, is aware of the plans. "Ang sabi naman niya (What he said was), 'We will honor all agreement that were entered into by the previous government. So okay sa kaniya 'yun (with him)," he said.
Lorenzana said the US is keen to prioritize construction of facilities at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga in Central Luzon.
Next will be the Bautista Air Base in Palawan and the old Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro that is expected to be transformed into a military air base.
Lorenzana said the US is expected to improve the runway and put up facilities for its troops. "Mga imbakan ng gamit nila kung nandito sila (They need storage facilities for their equipment), but they can leave the building (with us when they leave)," he said.
These are 3 of the 5 EDCA locations previously identified by the military. The other two are Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
EDCA was negotiated as the Philippines, under the previous Aquino administration, sought US assistance in defending its maritime territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Under the Duterte administration, Lorenzana said the focus of cooperation had shifted to humanitarian assistance and counter-terrorism, among others.
"We have been waiting for those for the past couple of years. Medyo na-delay lang (It was delayed a bit)," Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said the US had to wait until after the Philippine Supreme Court junked constitutional questions raised against the agreement. (READ: SC rules PH-US military deal constitutional) – Rappler.com