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Manalo: Philippines won't let US store weapons for Taiwan ops at EDCA sites

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Manalo: Philippines won't let US store weapons for Taiwan ops at EDCA sites
Foreign Affairs Sec. Enrique Manalo attends the Committee on Foreign Relations' public hearing on the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and United States on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
Release / Senate PRIB / Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Wednesday that the Philippines will not be allowing the US to stockpile weapons for use in operations in Taiwan at sites American troops have access to under a 2014 defense agreement between Manila and Washington.

Manalo told a Senate inquiry on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that the Philippines’ decision on whether to let the US store weapons at selected sites in the country "will be guided by the main purposes" of the defense deal.

"We would not agree to any kind of activity or even materiel not consistent with these agreed activities," Manalo said. "Our view is that EDCA is not aimed at any third country outside its meant for use for the Philippines and of course in connection with our treaty with the United States."

Sen. Imee Marcos, Senate foreign affairs panel chairperson, raised the question on the possibility of the US caching weapons at EDCA sites in the Philippines as she pointed to a provision in the 2023 US National Defense Authorization Act which allowed for the creation of a contingency stockpile in Taiwan. 

In response, Manalo said the Philippines will be "guided by the provisions of the EDCA and our own national interest."

"And I think, at this stage, our main foreign policy is really to be friends to all. And therefore, I think, anything that is inconsistent with that would not be also consistent with our position," he continued.

Pressed further by Marcos, Manalo said it also follows that the Philippines will also not allow US troops to refuel, repair and reload at EDCA sites.

Four new EDCA sites were identified in the northern and western Philippines, with two sites in Cagayan, another in Isabela and another in Palawan. This brought the total number of sites under the defense deal to nine.

How were EDCA sites chosen?

Sen. Marcos, the president's sister, quizzed defense and foreign affairs officials at the hearing on the selection of the sites, which she found to be "random and no longer purposeful with regard to the modernization of the (Armed Forces of the Philippines.)"

Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. said the sites were chosen to beef up the country’s external defense and address the Philippines' "vulnerability" in the north.

Marcos, however, doubted this claim. "In the north? I come from the north, sir. I don’t feel very vulnerable. Our fishermen in Cagayan and the Ilocos sea are not being harassed by anyone."

Galvez then said the sites were selected with the goal of "protecting our maritime interests including the Benham Rise and also the West Philippine Sea."

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Gen. Andres Centino, AFP chief-of-staff , said choosing Balabac in Palawan and Sta. Ana in Cagayan as among the four new EDCA sites was strategic as "we are projecting force in the islands."

The expansion of EDCA sites into the northern and western portions of the Philippines has prompted China to issue a string of warnings that this will destabilize peace in the region and can drag Manila into the conflict over Taiwan.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba and residents in his province have protested the establishment of EDCA sites there as they fear this would drag them into the friction in the Taiwan Strait.

This concern is shared by Marcos, sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. whose administration has shifted away from China and back to the US in a marked departure from his predecessor’s foreign policy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has assured the public that locals living near EDCA sites will benefit from their establishment as this would supposedly spur economic activity, especially infrastructure development.

Both officials from the Philippines and the US have asserted that the EDCA sites are more about capacity building to respond to natural and humanitarian disasters, although this is only one aspect of the agreement.

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ENHANCED DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT

ENRIQUE MANALO

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