President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Wednesday the four new military bases that US troops may use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will be located in the northern and southern parts of the country, and in Palawan.
In an interview after he attended the 126th Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Army in Taguig City, Marcos said Filipino and American officials have already identified and agreed on the new sites under the EDCA and would soon make a formal announcement.
“So, there are four extra sites scattered around the Philippines. There are some in the north, there are some around Palawan, there are some further south. So they are really in different areas,” he said.
He said the goal is to defend the country’s eastern coast, noting that the Philippines’ continental shelf on Luzon’s eastern side was also taken into account.
Asked if he has reached out to local government officials who are opposed to having the EDCA sites in their localities, Marcos said he talked to those officials and explained the importance of the EDCA sites in their jurisdictions.
“Yes, we explained to them why it was important that we have that and why it will actually be good for their province,” he said. “And I think they already understand, because most of… those who had interposed some objections… [have] come around to support the idea of an EDCA site in their province.”
Marcos last month granted US troops access to four more Philippine military camps, on top of the five existing locations under the EDCA.
Finalized after eight rounds of talks in August 2013, the EDCA, which was signed in 2014, allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, and the right to build facilities and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.
Under the EDCA, the Philippine government is working with the US to build the future facilities in Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
The EDCA is a key pillar of the US-Philippines alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between Filipino and American forces.
Filipino and American troops are also scheduled to hold their largest-ever military exercise next month.
The Pentagon announced that the United States and the Philippines have agreed to review the full range of their maritime cooperation in the 2 + 2 meeting in Washington in April.
At the ceremony marking the Army’s 126th year, Marcos said the Army must be vigilant amid a more complex and unpredictable external security environment.
He also reassured the military that his administration remains committed to modernizing the Armed Forces to make it a highly capable organization.
In an interview after his speech, Marcos also said the government will implement a pilot shelter program for the country’s soldiers and police officers with the construction of 1,000 housing units in Cavite.
He said this is part of his administration’s efforts to invest in the well-being of the country’s uniformed personnel so that they, in turn, could concentrate on effectively performing their duties.
Under the pilot program, Marcos said around 500 housing units will be built for the military, and the other 500 would be for the Philippine National Police.
He said the government has to craft a financing scheme suitable to the police and the military because of their frequent transfer from one area to another.
At the same event, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said he believed the ongoing intelligence-driven operations will dismantle communist groups in the country.
In his speech, he said there were 89 recorded New People’s Army guerrilla fronts in 2016, but as of 2023 there are only 23 to 25 remaining fronts and only five are capable of action.