DEFENSE Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed hope that local government units (LGUs) will realize the benefits of establishing additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) sites in four new locations in the country to boost the access of American troops.

In a statement, Galvez said providing access to American troops in more Philippine military bases may open more investment opportunities for the Philippines.

“It is our fervent hope that our LGUs will also realize that the Edca is not just about security,” the Defense secretary said.

“We enjoin them to look into the potential foreign investments and economic development that Edca sites will bring to their communities as well as the enhancement of the protection of our areas that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the quicker disaster response and mitigation if our front-liners are called to action,” he added.

Last week, during the visit of United States (US) Defense chief Lloyd Austin III, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. approved to accelerate the full implementation of Edca, which was signed in 2014, by designating four new locations in strategic areas of the country and the substantial completion of the projects in the existing five agreed locations -- Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

Officials have yet to disclose the new sites as Galvez said they are still coordinating with the LGUs.

In November 2022, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the US military has requested additional Edca sites within AFP facilities — two in Cagayan, and one each in Palawan, Zambales and Isabela, amid tensions in Taiwan and the West Philippine Sea due to China’s disputes.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Manila slammed the US military posture in the region, saying it heightens the tension and undermines the peace and stability in Southeast Asia.

“China always holds that defense and security cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability, not target against any third party, even less to harm the interests of a third party,” it said.

"Such moves contradict the common aspiration of regional countries to seek peace, cooperation and development... It also ran counter to the common aspiration of the Filipino people to pursue sound economic recovery and a better life in cooperation with China," it added.

Meanwhile, Galvez expressed gratitude to the support of the lawmakers to the expansion of Edca.

In separate interviews, Senators Francis Tolentino, Francis Escudero, and Sherwin Gatchalian shared their favorable sentiments on these developments in the country’s defense and security policy.

“It is the DND's mandate to secure and defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights such as the freedom of our people to fish in our own waters. We also share the vision of like-minded nations in ensuring freedom of navigation and a peaceful, stable and free Indo-pacific,” Galvez said.

“As a member of the international community, we have a responsibility to protect the global commons in order to prevent humanity from constricting itself by ensuring that vital Sea Lines of Communications are kept open. We must also promote responsible stewardship over our marine resources which are being threatened by overfishing and man-made ecological degradation,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)