US hasn't picked Philippine bases, envoy says
MANILA, Philippines – The US ambassador on Tuesday, June 17, denied reports that his country has picked Philippine bases it wants to use under a new military deal between the Philippines and the US.
“We haven't agreed to anything,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said in an interview with Rappler's Maria Ressa.
Goldberg responded to a question from social media on whether the US “has identified Philippine bases it wants to use” under the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista listed 3 military bases that will be offered to US troops:
A naval detachment in Palawan's Oyster Bay, which faces the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea);
The Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales, which also faces the West Philippine Sea; and
Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija
Goldberg said: “What people need to remember is that the next stage in EDCA is going to be a discussion between the two sides that will reach a mutual agreement about where these locations should be, and how many people should be there, and that the Philippines will have a say, but so will the United States. And it has to be mutually agreed.”
For 'renewing alliances'
Signed on April 28, 2013, the EDCA expands US access to Philippine military facilities. (READ: DOCUMENT: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement)
It also contains provisions meant to modernize the AFP, strengthen its external defense, ensure maritime security, increase maritime domain awareness, and expedite humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (READ: PH primer on military pact with US)
Goldberg noted that the EDCA “is designed to do two things” – to build a “minimum credible defense” for the Philippines, and to promote the US rebalance to Asia, which means it will be “more present.”
“I think the other way you can look at EDCA is not just in the capacity building, not just in the rebalance that the United States is present, but in the rebalance in the sense that we're renewing our alliances in the region – Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Australia. So all of that argues for a closer relationship,” the ambassador said.
Despite the supposed benefits of EDCA for the Philippines, however, the deal has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
Critics denounce the deal as unconstitutional and “one-sided.” – Rappler.com