US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III (left) and Department of National Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (right) (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The Philippines and the United States agreed to designate four new locations to boost the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

"Today, the Philippines and the United States are proud to announce their plans to accelerate the full implementation of the EDCA with the full agreement to designate four new Agreed Locations in strategic areas of the country and the substantial completion of the projects in the existing five Agreed Locations," the US Department of Defense and the Department of National Defense said in a joint statement released on Thursday.

This came shortly after the arrival of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III at the DND building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City for a meeting with his counterpart Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

However, the four new locations agreed upon by the two nations were not identified.

The EDCA is a key pillar of the US-Philippines alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between Filipino and American forces.

"Expansion of the EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate the modernization of our combined military capabilities," the statement read.

The addition of these new EDCA locations will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines and respond to other shared challenges.

"The United States has allocated over USD82 million toward infrastructure investments at the existing five sites under the EDCA, and is proud that these investments are supporting economic growth and job creation in local Philippine communities," it added.

Manila and Washington DC have committed to moving quickly in agreeing to the necessary plans and investments for the new and existing EDCA locations.

"The Philippine-US alliance has stood the test of time and remains ironclad. We look forward to the opportunities these new sites will create to expand our cooperation together," it said.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks in August 2013, the EDCA which was signed in 2014 allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to build facilities, and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.

Under the EDCA, the Philippine government is working with the US to build the future facilities in Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu. (PNA)