President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has assured that the four additional sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States will not be used for offensive actions.
He made this statement during a chance interview with reporters while attending the commemoration of the 81st Araw ng Kagitingan at the Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan.
“Hindi tayo papayag, ang Pilipinas, hindi tayo papayag na gamitin ang mga bases natin para sa kahit anong offensive na action. Ito ay para lamang tulungan ang Pilipinas, pagka nangangailangan ng tulong ang Pilipinas,” President Marcos said when asked whether the additional sites could “add tensions” in the region.
“Ang ginagawa lamang natin ay ipagpatuloy natin na pinapatibay natin ang depensa ng ating teritorya, ang pagdepensa ng Republika,” he added.
President Marcos emphasized that the Philippines would not allow the use of its bases for any offensive actions, and the EDCA sites were only meant to help in times of need.
He further explained that the additional EDCA sites give the United States a chance to help the Philippines in any way, especially in disaster relief efforts.
The four additional sites inspected and assessed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), include the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, and Balabac Island in Palawan. These sites are considered “suitable and mutually beneficial” and are expected to boost the country’s disaster response capability.
President Marcos granted U.S. troops access to four more Philippine military camps in February on top of the five existing locations under the EDCA. Filipino and American troops are also scheduled to hold their largest-ever military exercise this April.
The Philippines has had a longstanding security partnership with the United States since post-World War II. The EDCA agreement, signed in 2014, allows US troops access to Philippine military bases and enables joint military exercises and training.
The EDCA agreement has been a subject of controversy and criticism in the Philippines, with concerns raised about the country’s sovereignty and the possibility of being dragged into US conflicts. However, the Philippine government has maintained that the agreement is necessary to boost the country’s defense capabilities and provide support during emergencies and natural disasters.