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MANILA, Philippines – A United States military officer reiterated that the Philippines has sole ownership of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites that will be built in the country.
During his meeting with Manila’s acting Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., US military Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John Aquilino said that EDCA sites were “sovereign property of the Philippines and “they will be utilized jointly by the PH and US, and only upon the invitation of the Philippines.” The meeting was held on Friday, April 28.
On February 2, Galvez and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Philippines and the US had agreed on four new local military bases, where American troops would be allowed to build facilities and preposition military equipment. The longtime allies struck the deal nine years after they signed the EDCA, which further strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
The agreement on the establishment of EDCA sites was made less than a year into the term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was more open to communicating and transacting with the US. Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte was known for his tirades against the US and his threat to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Not only that, Duterte also displayed his inclination toward China throughout his six-year term.
During the April 28 meeting, Galvez also suggested the finalization of the joint sails agreement and Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operations between the Philippine and US navies.
In return, the US military Indo-Pacific commander said they were ready to “conduct such Cooperative Deployments in order to protect the global commons, freedom of navigation, and maintain a free, open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
Closing of largest Balikatan
On Friday, Philippine and US officials, including officers of the two countries’ militaries, led the culmination of the 2023 Balikatan exercises – the largest so far in history.
This year’s Balikatan included 17,767 troops from across three participating countries: 12,187 US troops, 5,469 Filipino soldiers, and 111 Australians. It was also the first time the exercise featured live-fire exercises using new weapons such as the Javelin anti-tank missile and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
The exercise also focused mainly on naval operations, command post, and cyber defense exercises. In his speech, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Andres Centino also noted the importance of this year’s Balikatan.
“The strong results of Balikatan Exercise 38-2023 and the robust relationship among like-minded allies are made more significant given the current security environment and the real threats that continue to evolve within the region. It is evident that all our exercise goals were met and achieved,” Centino said.
Galvez, meanwhile, said the participation of other observer nations in the exercise was an “explicit demonstration of solidarity for peace and stability in the region.” Manila’s acting defense chief said the attendance of those countries proved that the Philippines and US were not alone in ensuring security and peace.
Among the observer nations were: Brunei, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. – Rappler.com