Cong Rufus explains why EDCA expansion is a good idea

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez favors the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States (US).

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Facebook)

“I support that decision (EDCA expansion)," Rodriguez, a lawyer, said in a statement Monday morning, Feb. 6.

"It is in our national interest to pursue and expand our defense partnership with the to deter further aggression from China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and possible Chinese seizure of islets that belong to us under International law,” he said.

Rodriguez went as far to say that the expanded EDCA "should be further broadened".

"More sites along our western seaboard, where Chinese aggression and harassment of our fishermen have been taking place, should be covered,” reckoned the veteran solon, who chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

It was earlier reported that from the current five, the local bases covered by EDCA would be increased to nine. The four additional sites that have been included in EDCA have not been identified.

The five current locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.

“I support the Philippine Air Force base at the former Lumbia airport in our city. I expect the US government to pour in more funds to develop and fully capacitate the air base,” Rodriguez said.

He said the free ports in Subic, Zambales and Clark in Angeles City, Pampanga, which are former US military bases, should be part of EDCA training-exercises and humanitarian activities.

“The presence of the US in the former US Navy base in Subic could deter Chinese Coast Guard and military vessels from driving away our fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds in Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, or Bajo de Masinloc, which is near Zambales and Pangasinan,” he said.

Rodriguez proposed that Pag-asa Island off Palawan should also be included in EDCA.

“We have an airstrip there. The DND is also building a small port. We could ask our US counterparts to improve those facilities,” the Mindanao lawmaker said.

He said expanded defense cooperation in the south should prompt the Marcos administration to allow and support oil and gas exploration in Reed Bank near Palawan.

He noted that Reed Bank or Recto Bank is reportedly holding more oil and gas reserves than the Malampaya natural gas project, also located in Palawan.

A local company with foreign partners holds the service contract for exploring oil and gas in Recto Bank.