Philippines, US plan to ‘expedite’ completing EDCA projects, adding locations

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Philippines, US plan to âexpediteâ completing EDCA projects, adding locations
In this May 2017 photo, soldiers participating in the first part of the Civil Military Activity from the Sea, one leg of the Philippines-US Balikatan exercise for 2017 held in Casiguran, Aurora province, are shown.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United States are looking to fully implement the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement through finishing projects and adding more locations in a bid to highlight the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

The Philippines and the US in a joint statement on Friday said the full implementation of the EDCA is underway through the “expedited completion” of projects in locations, as well as by adding more locations to the list.

Through the agreement, US military may use facilities in Philippine military bases and camps.

“We have agreed to finalize the procedures for the additional agreed locations. In fact, it is a work in progress,” Lazaro said in a press briefing on Thursday.

There are currently five military sites identified under the EDCA, which include Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, and Basa Air Base in Pampanga.

READ: How expanded EDCA access to AFP sites could affect independent foreign policy 

This comes as officials from both countries participate in the 10th Philippines-United States Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) held in Manila from January 19 to 20.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro and Defense Undersecretary Angelito de Leon led Manila’s delegation. 

Meanwhile, US State Department Assistant Secretary Daniel Kritenbrink and US Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary Lindsey Ford were in the country to represent Washington, along with their team.

The Philippines and the US have agreed to continue discussions to adopt the Terms of Reference to institutionalize the BSD working groups formed this year, which “would facilitate focused and sustained interagency coordination, planning, and implementation of action plans in priority areas.” 

There was also consideration for forming another dialogue dedicated to defense security.

More opportunities for cooperation

Aside from the BSD, defense and foreign affairs ministers of both countries will also hold their two-plus-two ministerial dialogue format, a third for the Philippines and the US since 2012 and 2016 and a “policy-centric tabletop exercise” by the second quarter this year, which both countries hope to “ensure more coordinated responses to potential flashpoints.” 

There is also a bid to reconvene the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Meetings. Meanwhile, Manila and Washington are also planning to hold the second maritime dialogue this year after last year’s inaugural dialogue in April 2022. 

“The United States will serve as host of the second maritime dialogue, along with a Track 1.5 discussion to provide a more inclusive platform for sharing and socializing ideas and recommendations among academic and other stakeholders,” the joint statement of the Philippines and the US read. 

“The Philippines welcomed the offer of the United States to hold regular consultations with a view to identifying joint maritime activities that the two countries can undertake.”

READ: US, Philippines defense leaders discuss strengthening MDT, maritime cooperation 

The two countries also set a yearend target for the conclusion of their General Security of Military Information Agreement, which would help simplify technology transfer of respective defense units.




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