US: $66 M part of regular military aid to Philippines

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – US military assistance to the Philippines is expected to increase to $66 million this year. However, it is not tied to the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, US embassy Press Attaché Kurt Hoyer clarified yesterday.

“That is an increase from the original expectation of $40 million,” he said.

During a visit to Manila in January last year for the Fifth Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, US Assistant Secretary for Defense David Shear said the US was giving the Philippines $40 million for 2015 in military assistance.

Shear said the US provided $40 million in foreign military financing in Fiscal Year 2015, adding that the US would do anything it could to help the Philippines make best use of the assistance.

Hoyer said the US is in the process of working with the Philippines on locations and activities   for the EDCA implementation.

“But no final decisions have been made,” he said. “Budget would be contingent upon the locations and activities.” 

At a forum in Quezon City on Wednesday, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said that $66 million was allocated for military funding to the Philippines.

“Let me point out that we have about $66 million in foreign military funding in process for the Philippines and we expect that there will be additional sources of funds for both carrying out EDCA to military construction funds and also to increases in what we call the maritime security initiative,” he said.

“So we will work through all of those figures and also working with our Congress, which of course you have to deal as well in terms of what the Philippines may bring to the table.” 

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Filipino-US EDCA proponents are eyeing Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City, Bara Air Base  in Pampanga, Mactan Air Force Base in Cebu and an area within the Armed Forces Western Command in Puerto Princesa City where US forces can put up facilities.

He made the announcement yesterday during the turnover rites for 114 refurbished Armored Personnel Carriers that the government acquired through the Excess Defense Articles facility of the  US to the Philippine Army Mechanized infantry Division.

In a media interview in Cagayan de Oro City earlier, Gazmin said the US will put up facilities at Lumbia airfield.

The three military bases are strategically located across the  country:  Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and Basa Air Base in Pampanga watching over the West Philippine Sea.

The Air Force, Army and Navy have bases in the Cebu.

Ebuen Air Force Base and the Armed Forces Central Command are guarding the whole of the Visayas. 

The Philippines and the US have committed to coordinate closely on the implementation of the EDCA to enhance security and defense cooperation.

Last month, the Philippines acknowledged the significant initiative of the US Senate armed services committee for introducing Maritime Security Initiative in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act with the allocation of $50 million to help enhance the maritime security capacities of countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the US Senate armed services committee has demonstrated a keen interest in developments in Asia, particularly on the issue of maritime security. 

US President Barack Obama first unveiled the maritime assistance plan when he was in Manila last November for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting .

EDCA mandates the Philippines to host a bigger number of US forces, their assets and equipment on a bigger scale and increased frequency in selected military bases, on rotation basis around the country.

It forms part of a bigger US presence in the Asia- Pacific region under what it called a pivot or rotational presence.

Originally, the Philippines offered Hulugan Bay in Palawan, Clark in Pampanga and Fort San Miguel in Zambales as hosts to the rotating US forces and their assets.

– With Jaime Laude


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