Phl considering 3-5 sites for American facilities
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 2, 2014 - 1:47pm

MANILA, Philippines - About three to five camps are being considered as possible sites of American facilities to be built under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a defense official said Friday.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said negotiators have started talks on the annexes of the pact including the areas where US troops will construct their facilities and pre-position their equipment.

“These AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) bases will be the locations for pre-positioning activities and construction activities. It will not be the whole universe of the AFP bases,” Batino said in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“Right now the discussions would be ranging from three to five AFP bases. That’s not the final but that is the starting discussion point,” he added.

Batino, the chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel on the EDCA, confirmed that among the sites being considered is Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the largest military camp in the country.

“Fort Magsaysay is an ideal location. We usually hold Balikatan exercises there. But this is still being studied,” he said, referring to the annual bilateral drills between Filipino and American forces.

Earlier, the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command said it is ready to make available Fort Magsaysay for US structures and equipment once a base access deal is forged.

The 44,000-hectare camp hosts the Army’s Special Operations Command and the 7th Infantry Division.

Batino declined to identify the other military installations being eyed for the agreement.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the five sites that the US military is likely to aim for are Subic Bay and Cubi Point in Central Luzon, Clark in Pampanga; Oyster Bay in Palawan; Brooke’s Point in Palawan and Batanes Islands.

Officials, however, could not say whether the information provided by the article is accurate.

Subic and Clark served as locations of US bases before they were shut down in 1991.

Oyster Bay, meanwhile, hosts a naval base that will soon undergo multi-million peso upgrades and improvements.

Both Oyster Bay and Brooke’s Point are located in Palawan, the province closest to the disputed Spratlys Islands. 

Batanes, meanwhile, was described by the Wall Street Journal article as a site that offers “an excellent vantage point from which to monitor a key maritime chokepoint for any vessels departing China for the Pacific Ocean.”

EDCA, an offshoot of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, allows the US to construct facilities and store defense equipment in Philippine bases.

The activities allowed under the 10-year pact will take place in mutually-agreed upon areas.

Officials claim that the EDCA would help modernize the AFP, widely regarded as the weakest in the region.

Officials could not provide a timetable for the completion of the deal’s implementing agreements but maintained that the task remains a priority.

“There is no need to rush things,” said Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine panel.

Batino said the number of US troops to be deployed to the Philippines would depend on the activities to be undertaken by the two countries. –  with reports from Ronald Mendoza and Alvin Perez
 

ARMED FORCES NORTHERN LUZON COMMAND ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BOTH OYSTER BAY AND BROOKE CAMP AGUINALDO CENTRAL LUZON DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY PIO LORENZO BATINO EDUARDO MALAYA FORT MAGSAYSAY OYSTER BAY WALL STREET JOURNAL
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