Marcos: 4 new EDCA sites identified, to be ‘scattered’ across PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — The Philippines and the United States have already identified the locations for the four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the country and will announce these after further discussions, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday.

“Yes, they have been identified,” Marcos told reporters after attending a Philippine Army event.

The two allies last month announced the expansion of American military presence in the Philippines — a move largely seen as part of efforts to deter China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea and against Taiwan.

“Before I announce it, we will formalize it with our partners in the United States, so that sabay-sabay naman ang ano, hindi natin i-preempt ‘yung kanilang pinaplano [we'll do it simultaneously with them, and we won’t preempt what the US is planning],” Marcos added.

He said the EDCA sites will be “scattered around the Philippines" as a defense strategy.

These will be on top of the five existing ones: Cesar Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro, Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan.

“There are some in the north, there are some around Palawan, there are some further south. So, iba-iba talaga [the areas are different],” he said of the additional locations.

The sites also take into consideration the Philippines' continental shelf on the eastern side of Luzon, he added. Located in the area is Benham Rise, officially known as the Philippine Rise, a resource-rich undersea plateau which the United Nations declared in 2012 as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

According to Marcos, his administration has already talked to local officials who earlier voiced opposition or reservation about their localities hosting the EDCA sites.

He said that after the talks, it appears they are now receptive to the idea.

“We explained to them why it was important that we have that and why it will actually be good for their province,” Marcos said. “Most of those who interposed some objections, right now, naintindihan naman nila [they understand], and they have come around to support the idea of an EDCA site in their province."

The governors of Cagayan and Isabela – which were among those being considered as sites — earlier said they are not keen on having their provinces included in the EDCA list, where US forces will be stationed on a rotational basis.

More recently, however, Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. told the media that Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba said he will respect whatever the national government decides.

Galvez also earlier said Camarines Sur officials have expressed openness to having an EDCA site in their province.