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Work on 14 projects at EDCA sites to begin

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Work on 14 projects at EDCA sites to begin
Philippine Marines with the Joint Rapid Reaction Force conduct an amphibious landing utilizing logistical navy ships to seize a scenario-based objective as part of the Balikatan joint exercises in this 2016 photo.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Work is expected to begin soon on 14 US-funded projects at four new sites where American military personnel would be given access under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said spadework on at least seven of the 14 projects is seen to commence this year. For the rest, work is expected to begin next year as actual expenses are still being determined.

“On the new sites, identified na rin yung mga projects to be constructed in those areas. We’re looking at construction of facility and mess hall, rehabilitation of runway, construction of additional billeting facilities, acquisition of generators, electrical, installation of electrical system, construction of pier with water supply,” he told reporters in an interview on Wednesday.

“We are also looking at an HADR warehouse, meaning humanitarian and disaster response, construction of HADR hangar and with electrical and water facilities, and of course construction of billeting for our personnel, barracks complete with amenities. We are also establishing command and control fusion system,” Aguilar added.

“So they’re ongoing, the projects have been identified and ready for implementation – maybe depending on the release of the budget,” Aguilar said.

The four new EDCA sites are the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan.

The other EDCA sites are at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro, and the Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan in Cebu.

“Now we are looking at making these facility available especially that we have an upcoming typhoon and we’re looking to serve its purpose and to be able to help our countrymen who would be affected. Hopefully it (typhoon) will not (make) landfall but at least we have facility that we can use for the storage of relief goods,” Aguilar said.

The AFP said the 14 new projects are aligned with the military’s modernization program and are designed to “strengthen our capabilities because these EDCA sites will facilitate the conduct of training, and this is very important, and if we can have equipment stored there so we can use them if we need to,” he added.

Aguilar stressed that EDCA sites would be used chiefly for emergency purposes – like for disaster response – and in case of foreign attack, which would trigger the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

The projects for the first EDCA sites cost $81.95 million. The cost of completing the 14 projects at the four new sites would still have to be determined.

Australia, Sweden defense ties

Meanwhile, the AFP and the Department of National Defense are working on strengthening ties and defense relations with Australia and Sweden.

Australian Army Deputy Chief Maj. Gen. Natasha Fox met with Philippine Army Commanding General Gen. Romeo Brawner at Fort Bonifacio on Wednesday to discuss such efforts.

Accompanied by Australian Defense Attaché Col. Paul Joseph Barta, the ranking military official is in the country to attend the 6th Philippine-Australia Staff Talks.

At the meeting, the Philippine Army and the Australian Army key officers mapped out bilateral engagement plans for the next year and did some update on joint activities for the year.

Fox said Australian troops have been learning a lot in jungle warfare from Philippine Army soldiers during joint exercises. – Pia Lee-Brago

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