A group composed of generals and flag officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed its support to the establishment of four additional sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
The military previously identified Cagayan, Zambales, Isabela, and Palawan as possible areas where the US can set up their facilities and store their weapons. Currently, there are five predetermined Edca sites at 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.
According to the Association of General and Flag Officers Inc. (AGFO), Edca is one of the mechanisms designed to bolster the alliance between the US and the Philippines under the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
“This 2014 Agreement allows the rotation, not permanent stay, of US troops in mutually agreed locations where our ally could use temporary facilities,” the AGFO said in a statement issued on Saturday.
It stressed that the initiative will not only “enhance the interoperability of the two allies’ defense forces and accelerate the modernization and capability upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines but will significantly improve government responses, like humanitarian assistance and relief operations to various emergency situations and climate-related disasters.”
The AGFO said the Typhoon Yolanda experience in 2013 is a reminder that the proximity of relief centers that could accommodate goods, equipment and manpower hastens the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
“In addition, given the Constitutional mandate to protect the national patrimony in maritime areas where we exercise sovereign rights our defense forces must continually enhance their capability to detect, deter and counter violators through sustained training and interoperability exercises with allies and partners that share our aspiration to abide by the “rules-based international order,” AGFO said.
“We also fully recognize that the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration Ruling has upheld the noble aims of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, otherwise known as the Constitution of the Oceans, to address maritime disputes in a peaceful manner and to remind coastal states on the limits of their maritime jurisdiction,” it added. — Franco Jose C. Baroña
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