The Philippine military will share from three to five of its camps or bases with American forces when the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between Manila and Washington is implemented.
Which camps will be shared are now the subject of a joint study by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND), Defense Undersecretary Pilo Lorenzo Batino, chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel, said on Friday.
Batino said the US armed forces’ use of the AFP camps would also be limited to certain specific areas where the American military can build structures and store its equipment.
“The direction of the DND and the AFP when identifying the agreed locations would be to limit and delineate only a limited portion or a limited area of the agreed AFP bases [that]would be shared [with]the US. It will not be the whole AFP bases [that will be]identified,” he added.
According to Batino, talks have centered on three to five AFP bases even as he said they are yet to reach a final number.
He said Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija, remains a top choice because of its vast land area and ideal location.
Fort Magsaysay, the home of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, is the AFP’s largest camp and has hosted a number of the annual Balikatan exercises involving Filipino and American troops.
Also being mentioned as possible host sites for US forces are the former Subic Naval Base and former Clark Air Base that were run by the Americans.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said the AFP would use a portion of Subic.
But Batino clarified that the AFP is eyeing Subic for its own use and has nothing to do with defense agreement.
“The AFP is requesting limited portions of Subic so that it can strategically locate Philippine Air Force equipment, Philippine Navy equipment. We need it for our concerns,” he pointed out.
Batino said Subic, by law, is a civilian area and its use needs approval of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
He declined to comment on the possible use of Clark by American forces.
The number of US troops that would be allowed to use the shared bases, Batino said, would depend on activities approved by the AFP and the US Pacific Command through the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Board.
“There’s no definite number of US troops coming in and out of our country but the agreed locations would be at constant number once agreed upon,” he added.