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US to Provide $70M in Defense Aid to Philippines

The United States will allocate nearly four billion Philippine pesos ($70 million) to bolster the cooperative defense capabilities of the Philippines’ Armed Forces, a US official has revealed.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said the budget would expand the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two allied nations, increasing infrastructure improvements at five additional military facilities.

“These improvements are designed to enhance cooperative defense capacities and support Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response activities, in ways that best meet the needs of the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the Alliance,” Carlson said. 

“Together we are looking at more ways to expand EDCA to directly strengthen our work together.”

The defense aid is expected to last until 2024.

Five New Bases

As part of the military expansion, the countries are eyeing five additional military bases, allowing US forces to respond more quickly during crises, the Philippine Star reported.

The five existing EDCA sites are Cesar Basa Air Base in Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan; Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

“We’re going to accelerate investments in infrastructure at the five existing EDCA sites and also… we would consult closely and look at the map for additional sites that could be added to the EDCA in the future,” a Pentagon top official said.

“We need this agreement to move more quickly on funding and infrastructure support at the five EDCA sites.”

Defense Treaty

Signed in 2014, the EDCA enables American and Filipino forces to develop collective capabilities to defend against evolving threats, particularly Chinese expansionism in the West Philippine Sea.

The agreement allows US troops to access Philippine military bases on a rotational basis “for security cooperation exercises, joint and combined military training activities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.”

In January 2019, then-Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and then-US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim inaugurated a warehouse at Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga, the first facility completed under EDCA.

The facility houses equipment for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

The aid is the latest development under the defense pact after facing serious delays during the Duterte administration, who launched repeated tirades against the US since taking office in 2016.

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