Senator Imee Marcos, in her recent visit to Palawan, expressed anew her apprehension over the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States of America, noting that the four new sites are near the Taiwan Strait, where there is an escalating tension with China.
Sen. Marcos stated that while the expansion is not yet clear, what she understands is that there is already a signed agreement.
She said that she still wants the specifics explained, hoping that it would not be utilized for reasons that would put the country in jeopardy.
“Sana hindi ito maging base militar at higit sa lahat, hindi ito maging staging site ng pag-atake. At magiging bukas tayo sa iba’t-ibang dayuhang papasok dito,” Marcos told the media in a press conference during her visit in Puerto Princesa on Sunday.
“Kung kalaban ng iba, bakit naman tayo manghihimasok? Yun ang kinatatakutan natin dahil hindi naman tayo handa at yung WESCOM natin ay puro tapang ang ipinaglalaban natin, hindi naman pwedeng puro ganoon,” she added.
Marcos earlier questioned the proposed sites for EDCA expansion in Northern Luzon noting the tension between China and Taiwan.
“Are we talking about the escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait as the number one issue?” Marcos asked at a Senate briefing on the new EDCA sites last March 1.
“It clearly indicates that this is the first line in the Taiwan attacks that are projected,” she added.
She also noted that what the new expanded EDCA is trying to address is the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan straits and not the concerns of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
The four new sites for EDCA are Cagayan, Isabela, Zambales and Palawan.
Meanwhile, in her talk with officials of Western Command (WESCOM) Marcos manifested her quest to resurrect a dormant government program that allows the country to be self-reliant in national defense.
Marcos said she is advocating for the revival and strengthening of the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP), which she claims will give a significant boost to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program and its goal of addressing the military’s strength in terms of building up its external defense system.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, asserted that through the SRDP, a program that her father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, implemented in the 1970s, the AFP was able to produce and manufacture a variety of military hardware, such as armaments, vehicles, and mini cruisers, among others.
Her proposal comes at a time when the Philippine government is preparing four new areas for U.S. military access in the country and a defense cooperation agreement with Japan.
Meanwhile, WESCOM welcomed Marcos’ visit, noting that the command has been dealing with security challenges in its area of responsibility, notably in the West Philippine Sea.
WESCOM chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, had earlier remarked that the command is facing daunting tasks with the escalating tension in WPS.
“We are grappling with the realities of our complex relations with our neighbors in Asia, our allies in the region, the United States and other countries,” Carlos stated.
The issue also comes along with the recent call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the AFP to raise its external defense security operations.
Responding to the senator’s call for the revival of SRDP, WESCOM also said the command will need to get additional support “for the sustainment of effective presence in the Kalayaan Island Group, shipbuilding and maintenance, sub-surface detection capability, drone and anti-drone capability, and coastal defense.”
The command also said it sees Marcos’ move as a positive sign that it hopes to see and receive.
“WESCOM is not the last frontier. It is the first frontier and certainly, we need to help you in every way we can” says Marcos as she vowed to bring to the senate the urgency of supporting WESCOM.