MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba will now "conform" with the national government's decision should it go ahead with constructing an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) site in his province.
Galvez made this announcement in a press conference shortly after the groundbreaking ceremonies for the rehabilitation and upgrades of the runway of Basa Air Base in Floridablanca town, Pampanga province on Monday.
"We have already talked to Governor Mamba, he even visited my office in PICC (Philippine International Convention Center) and he said that for as long as the national government has decided, he will abide with the decision of the President (Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.) and we have already decided, and I told him we already decided, and so he will conform with the decision," he added.
Mamba earlier expressed reservations about the proposed EDCA site in Cagayan province on the grounds that it could be a target for attack by a hostile power.
Even before the EDCA hearing at the Senate which concluded early this month, the DND chief said that majority if not all of Cagayan's mayors have expressed their support for the proposed EDCA facility in the province.
"And for the information of everybody, as early as before the end of the Senate hearing conducted, almost all of the mayors signified their intention to support EDCA. In fact, all of the mayors of Cagayan, I can show you the resolutions of the different mayors, they love to have EDCA sites in their areas," Galvez said.
The DND chief added that they are very much elated that local leaders are very "amenable and they respect so much the President considering that the President enjoys so much popular support."
"And we all know that the governors and the mayors are very supportive, even the barangay captains, when we talked with them, they even love to have exercises in their areas," he added.
In February, the DND announced that Manila and Washington D.C. agreed to designate four new EDCA "agreed locations."
EDCA, along with the Visiting Forces Agreement, operationalizes the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
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.
The Philippine government is working with the US to build the future facilities at the Basa Air Base; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija province; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu province.
Basa Air Base runway upgrade to costs USD25M
Meanwhile, Galvez said rehabilitation of the Basa Air Base's 2,800 meter runway will cost USD25 million or equivalent to PHP1.373 million.
This excludes the USD2.8 million or PHP153,776,000 allocated for its improvements and the USD185,000 which is equivalent to PHP10,112,562 used for construction of the Wing Operation Center.
The Basa Air Base's runway rehabilitation is expected to be completed this September. This includes the asphalting of the runway and repair of the runway overruns.
The upgrade, repair, and rehabilitation of the runway aims to ensure safer take-offs and landings of aircraft and other aerodrome operation.
Galvez said this will make the facility ideal for the efficient conduct of joint task force exercises and as a natural hub for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations considering that the Philippines is a disaster-prone country.
"As of this March, the United States Government has funded a total of USD83.06 million or roughly PHP4.56 billion. To simply put, 23 percent of the 21 bilaterally approved projects are completed while other projects are in various phases of design and construction," the DND chief added.
Galvez also said that out of the 15 approved EDCA projects, five projects were already completed, with five ongoing, and the remaining five up for implementation soon.
The completed projects include the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) warehouse, C-2 fusion center, and fuel range tanks, among others.
"With great anticipation, the One Defense-AFP Team looks forward to the timely completion of all EDCA projects considering that those facilities would help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) boost its capability to ensure the country's defense. Most importantly, the facilities would contribute to the national effort in securing our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly in our maritime domain awareness campaign," the DND chief added.
Galvez also pointed out that EDCA not only focuses on boosting the AFP's capability but also on the DND's various efforts to level up the country's defense capabilities, that is, both the civil and military defense aspects.
"These include the capability to respond to natural disasters and calamities, conduct of humanitarian assistance operations, and defense against any attempt to violate our sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added.
The DND chief also expressed hope that the US would consider more EDCA projects, which, of course, will be coursed appropriately through the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB).
"We also look forward to strengthening further the collaboration and partnership between the AFP and Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), as they strive to pursue the mutual interests of the Philippines and the US in all arenas of cooperation," he added. (PNA)