U.S., Philippines announce five military bases for EDCA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The United States and the Philippines announced on Friday (March 18) the five Philippine military bases that will be utilized by American troops under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The U.S. and the Philippines signed the EDCA in April 2014, as political tensions between the Philippines and China escalated due to disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

The EDCA grants the U.S. an increased military presence in the Philippines, through the rotation of troops and military assets for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

Also read: What you need to know about EDCA

"What it signals is our commitment to our alliance with the Philippines and only our alliance to the Philippines. That's what this is intended to signal, that that alliance is still strong and vibrant,”said John Kirby, U.S. State Department Spokesperson.

“We want to see it continue to be stronger and more vibrant in the future. No other nation in the region should take any other message away from this new agreement.”

The deal allows rotating U.S. military presence at the following sites:

Antonio Bautista Air Base, close to the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea

Basa Air Base in Pampanga

Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija

Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro

Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

Also read: U.S. agrees deal on rotational presence at five bases in Philippines

Mutual decision

"It was a mutually agreed upon decision on the selection and identification of locations, hence we fully support and welcome this development which both sides have worked hard for,” said Peter Paul Galvez, Department of National Defense Spokesperson.

The government welcomes this development:

“The five agreed locations under EDCA implementation reaffirms the shared commitment of the Philippines and the U.S. to strengthening their alliance, in terms of ensuring both countries' mutual defense and security, as well as jointly contributing to regional peace, stability & economic prosperity,” said Asec. Charles Jose, Spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Both countries have yet to announce when the selected sites will be utilized.

Initially, Manila offered eight areas including the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Palawan, which faces the direction of the disputed Spratly Islands. As of writing, there is no word yet whether U.S. Forces will have access to more bases.

‘Agreement unnecessary’

Critics of the EDCA argue that the Philippines does not need this agreement to stand against China.

"EDCA will not modernize the AFP in the same way the old U.S. bases and the Visiting Forces Agreement did not modernize the AFP,” said Renato Reyes, Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).

“Standing up to China requires developing our domestic economy, industrializing our country, and developing our capacity for external defense."

BAYAN insists that allowing U.S. Forces to stay in Philippine military camps violates national sovereignty.

The group said they will ask the next administration to scrap the EDCA, since the Supreme Court has ruled it is just an executive agreement which the President may terminate.

Related: Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of EDCA