Malacañang on Thursday maintained that there will be no permanent bases for US troops anywhere in the country but that “temporary locations” will be allotted to them under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said granting permanent basing rights to foreign troops will be against the law but he explained that the VFA allows their presence here.
“The establishment of US bases in the Philippines is no longer allowed due to the expiration of the Military Bases Agreement in 1991. Moreover, it is no longer allowed under the 1987 Constitution. What is currently in effect is the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Under the VFA, US troops are allowed on Philippine soil and may use mutually identified venues, but not on a permanent basis,” Coloma stressed.
He was reacting to reports quoting military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla that the government has offered eight bases where US troops can build facilities to store equipment and supplies under EDCA.
The locations include five military airfields, two naval bases and a jungle training camp.
Coloma explained that once finalized, these locations may be used for US troops’ rotational presence.
“Once identified, these venues may serve, for instance, as temporary locations where US warships can dock while joint military exercises with the AFP are conducted,” he stressed.
Coloma earlier said the Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of EDCA served well for the government’s purpose.
He said the agreement will further strengthen the defense and security ties between the US and the Philippines.
The United States vowed to strengthen the defense capability of the Philippines as it renewed its “ironclad” commitment to defend its long-time treaty ally against aggression.
At the close of their second high-level talks in Washington on Jan. 12, the foreign and defense chiefs of the Philippines and US issued a joint statement declaring the need for stronger military cooperation as China keeps expanding its presence in the waters also contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
To enhance security and defense cooperation, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and US Secretary of State John Kerry, together with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, committed to enhance the Philippines’ maritime security presence and maritime domain awareness.
As proof of its commitment, Washington will transfer a third high-endurance cutter and a research vessel to the Philippines this year.
Both sides also agreed to coordinate closely on the implementation of EDCA.
The officials also vowed to boost military-to-military cooperation and inter-operability through joint exercises, capacity-building, and intelligence sharing.
The meeting, called Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue, is the highest level policy consultative mechanism between the Philippine and US governments. This was their first meeting since 2012.