The Philippines and the United States are eyeing more projects in sites covered by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that will be operational next year, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said.
“We’re very optimistic that for next year, we will have more of these projects operational so that we can work on our joint exercises right away and also our joint operations,” Brawner said during his visit to the EDCA site at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga on Wednesday.
United States Indo-Pacific Command head Admiral John Aquilino said the developments in EDCA projects are moving at great speed.
“The work that his [Brawner’s] team has done in coordination with our team to further advance the capabilities here in the Philippines, I am really impressed with the work of the team. So I’m very happy,” Aquilino said.
“I was here a year ago. The advance of the runway and all of the sites is moving at great speed and it’s only because of the great partnership,” he added.
Aquilino said another 63 projects in the nine approved EDCA sites were added aside from the 32 projects that were earlier approved.
“And (the) United States has identified investment of almost $110 million to those sites to build capability capacity for the AFP to use every day and for the United States to fall in when invited,” he said.
Military public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Enrico Ileto said the AFP has presented its proposed projects for the EDCA sites to its US counterpart.
“Our American friends have heard what our proposals are and I believe they will assess how they can finance it, when we can start it and put a timeline on it. Their response was very positive,” Ileto said.
Aside from the Basa Air Base, Brawner and Aquilino also visited the EDCA site at the Lal-lo Airport and Naval Base Camilo Osias in Cagayan on Wednesday.
The visit was a prelude to the upcoming Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The MDB and SEB, established in 1968 and 2006, respectively, form the framework that directs and enables defense and security cooperation between the US and the Philippine forces.
Brawner said yesterday’s MDB-SEB meeting demonstrated the “steadfast commitment of the Philippines and the United States in safeguarding our nation and the Indo-Pacific Region.”
“It signifies our commitment to further strengthen our cooperation, ensuring that both militaries are prepared and well-equipped to respond to evolving security challenges and humanitarian crises,” Brawner said.