The Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed a resolution on Tuesday in support of the expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Palawan, which aims to promote peace, security, and humanitarian aid in the country.
The move came after Malacañang announced on Monday that Balabac is one of the four EDCA sites.
The resolution’s author, Board Member Ryan Maminta, stated that EDCA has contributed significantly to Palawan over the years through humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response, particularly during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette.
He also stated that Balabac’s inclusion in the expansion will undoubtedly benefit peace and security.
“For almost 10 years of its implementation, it is more intensive now because we need to see more the presence of U.S. in Asia, so we should really benefit from such agreements like this which is the result of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Maminta said.
He also explained that, given the geopolitical situation in the West Philippine Sea, any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
“Because if we will rely on our other allies or neighboring nations, we cannot actually feel their being our allies so to whom are we going to go to?” he asked.
“Their (US soldiers) presence alone is additional promotion and enhancement of skills and capabilities of Filipino soldiers,” he explained.
Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates, on the other hand, said that while aligning with the United States puts the province at risk, he does not oppose the identification of Balabac as an EDCA expansion site.
“I haven’t really given much thought about that. While there are lots of favors, we are somehow putting ourselves at risk,” Socrates said in an interview with the media on Friday.
“So for me, it’s a delicate balancing act. We want what we will get but we don’t want to be involved in the conflict. So either way, there is an advantage and a disadvantage,” he explained.
He also stated that he does not know enough about the issue and would prefer not to participate in the debates and leave it to the national government.
“If that will involve China and Taiwan conflicts which includes the United States, there are also factors that only the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) knows, and of coure, the president of the Philippines,” he said.
Balabac Mayor Shuaib Astami could not be reached for comment, despite attempts by Palawan News.