The Philippines will not become a large and permanent base for United States (US) forces under the recently forged defense deal between the two countries.
Government officials reiterated this assurance in a Palace press briefing on Thursday amid speculations the country would be a launching pad for the US operations through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
“I think that (it) is important to put a stress on, as some stakeholders would state that allegedly through EDCA, the Philippines had become a large US base. No, definitely not. The DND (Department of National Defense) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will study which of their AFP bases will be the ones covered under EDCA,” said Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino.
Batino, chairman of the Philippine panel that negotiated the pact with the US, said the agreement institutionalizes prepositioning of US equipment within AFP locations, and the construction of related facilities to accommodate such prepositioning and other enhanced defense cooperation activities.
“We would want to emphasize though that under EDCA it is very clear that, for any prepositioning and construction activity to happen, the consent of the Philippine government is necessary,” he stressed.
Batino said the Philippines will determine which areas and the size of those locations which will be shared with the US.
“It will not be the whole AFP base because, as you know, we need all of our AFP bases. So all of these would have to be determined: what facilities would be constructed for joint use? What equipment would be allowed to be prepositioned in these agreed locations?,” he explained.
“…We are the host and they’re our guests. And the Philippine side would have the final say as to where these agreed locations will be… We can make an offer as to where they can go, then they can probably select from those,” said Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya.
Further, Batino said the stay of the US troops will be temporary in accordance with the defense agreement.
“There is clear language here under EDCA that the US, the parties do not authorize the permanent military presence or the establishment of a base by the US. In fact, under another article, the EDCA also provides that the access will be on a rotational or temporary basis,” he said.
Batino added that the number of troops would be determined through the yearly Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board consultation. PNA