Officials to identify areas that will host US forces in Philippines

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2014 - 4:17pm

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino and American military officials will discuss next month the possible areas that will host the facilities to be set up by the United States (US) under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the matter will be discussed during the meeting of the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and the Security Engagement Board (SEB) in Manila.

Catapang said discussions would be held so that the plans would be ready in case the Supreme Court issues a favorable ruling on the EDCA.

The plans would be put on hold if the high court declares the agreement as unconstitutional, he added.

“Important matters (will be discussed) including where they (US) want to reposition their humanitarian equipment and what areas can be developed for pre-positioning,” Catapang said in an interview last Wednesday.

“The planning should be continuous. If a (favorable) decision is issued, we can execute (the plans) immediately,” he added.

The exact date and venue of the meetings are still being threshed out.

The MDB and the SEB serve as venue for security cooperation between the Philippines and the US. MDB is concerned with inter-governmental coordination while SEB focuses on non-traditional security threats like transnational crimes, maritime security, and disasters.

The Philippines and the US signed the EDCA last April in a move widely interpreted as an effort to counter China’s aggressive acts in the region.

Officials claim that the 10-year deal will help modernize the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region.

The agreement will allow the US to build temporary facilities and to store equipment in Philippine military bases. Officials are now discussing what camps will be covered by the deal, which was negotiated for eight months.

Three petitions questioning the legality of the EDCA have been filed before the Supreme Court.

The first petition was filed by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, two of the twelve lawmakers who voted to shut down the US bases in the Philippines in 1991.

They believe that EDCA has no legal basis because the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US has been superseded by the 1987 Constitution, which renounces war as a national policy.

The second petition was filed by lawmakers who belong to the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives and leaders of different groups. They claim that EDCA would only benefit the US and could lead to “a derogation of our country’s dignity and an unconscionable sellout of our sovereignty.”

The third petition, filed by the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement, argued that the deal violated constitutional provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests, freedom from nuclear weapons and autonomy of local government units.

Catapang’s predecessor, former Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, previously said he wanted military sites in Palawan, Zambales, and Nueva Ecija to host the US facilities.

Bautista said the facilities in Oyster Bay in Palawan, Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija need to be developed to accommodate training activities and military assets.

In an earlier interview, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado confirmed that they are offering all of their bases for the agreement.

The Air Force has eight bases including Clark Air Base, which served as a US military facility from 1903 to 1991.

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