The Philippines will expedite the implementation of a bilateral defense agreement with the US that permits American forces to access local military sites on a rotational basis, Nikkei reported, citing the government.

The country has earmarked $66.5 million to implement Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) projects from next year, including “runway repairs and construction of warehouses for training as well as for humanitarian and disaster response.”

Duterte’s China Tilt Delayed Implementation

The 2014 agreement allows five military bases for US forces to “maintain ammunition, fuel, and medical supplies” for a range of responses. 

However, only a warehouse has been built at Cesar Basa Air Base in Luzon under the agreement. The pact also included Antonio Bautista Air Base, Palawan; Benito Ebbed Air Base, Mactan; Fort Magsaysay, Cebu; Nuyeve Ecija; and Lumbia Airport, Cagayan de Oro.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte’s close ties with China delayed the agreement’s implementation, Nikkei reported. Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., wants better relations with Washington while practicing an “independent” foreign policy. 

Naval Base Camilo Osias, the Philippines. Image: Madison Santamaria/US Marine Corps

Additional Sites Discussed, Including Near Taiwan

Manila is also in talks with Washington to include additional sites in the agreement. 

The sites include the northern province of Cagayan, near Taiwan, and the western provinces of Palawan and Zambales, which face the disputed South China Sea, the outlet added, citing defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.

Philippine ambassador to the US, Jose Manuel Romualdez, told the outlet in September that the planned infrastructure development under the agreement could take three years to complete.

“The Department is committed to accelerate the implementation of the EDCA by concluding infrastructure enhancement and repair projects, developing new infrastructure projects at existing EDCA locations, and exploring new locations that will build a more credible mutual defense posture,” a Department of National Defense statement said.

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