Eight camps being considered as sites for EDCA
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - January 13, 2016 - 3:27am

MANILA, Philippines - At least eight military camps are being considered as sites that would host the US equipment to be pre-positioned in the country for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), an official said on Wednesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the shortlist contains military installations in Nueva Ecija, Clark, Palawan, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.

“They can be part of the areas that can be devoted for maritime security and maritime domain awareness. But there is no final agreement yet,” Padilla said in a press conference. 

He said the priority sites for the EDCA are Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and Basa Airbase in Pampanga. Other camps that will be subjected to further discussions are the Antonio Bautista Airbase in Palawan, Benito Ebuen Airbase in Cebu, Clark Airbase in Pampanga, Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro and unnamed naval bases in Palawan and Cebu.

Padilla said negotiators from the Philippines and the US would soon resume discussions on the implementing regulations of EDCA now that the legality of the bilateral deal has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Voting 10-4, Supreme Court justices has ruled that the EDCA is constitutional and does not need the Senate’s ratification to be implemented.

The high court said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), not the EDCA, is the instrument that permits American forces or facilities to enter the country. The VFA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows American soldiers to conduct trainings in Philippine soil.

According to the Supreme Court, the EDCA provides for arrangements to implement existing treaties following the entry of foreign military troops or facilities under the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). The MDT, signed in 1951 allows the two Philippines and the US to jointly develop their security capabilities to resist armed attacks. 

The Supreme Court also ruled that EDCA is a valid executive agreement that the President is allowed to enter into under the Constitution.

Padilla said negotiating panels from both countries would come up with recommendations and forward them to the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and the Security Engagement Board (SEB) for approval. The proposals will also require the approval of the Council of Ministers composed of the defense and foreign affairs chiefs of the Philippines and US.

“If the Mutual Defense Board assesses that it is necessary to increase our interoperability and enhance our capacities then it will be done, but it remains at the level of the MDB and SEB to make those recommendations,” Padilla said.

He could not say though when the negotiating panels would resume their talks.

“It is best to wait for our delegation to come back from Washington, they may have news regarding the timeline that can be followed regarding the preparation of the IRRs (implementing rules and regulations) that may be required to govern this agreement,” Padilla said.

EDCA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US on April 28, 2014, allows American troops to pre-position defense assets in Philippine bases.

The deal also provides the US greater access to bases in the country to address the gaps in the Philippines’s defense capabilities. 

Officials said the agreement would increase training opportunities for US and Philippine force and support the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They, however, stressed that EDCA would not pave way to the return of US bases in the country.

ACIRC ANTONIO BAUTISTA AIRBASE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BENITO EBUEN AIRBASE CEBU AND CAGAYAN CLARK AIRBASE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS EDCA PADILLA PHILIPPINES SUPREME COURT
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