Disaster-prone PH to benefit from full EDCA implementation, says House leader

A ranking congressman is pushing for the immediate, "full implementation" of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States (US), if only to ensure timely help for Filipinos during times of natural disasters.

Destruction caused by typhoon 'Odette' (FILE PHOTO /Bobbie Alota/ AFP)

“We are the most disaster-prone country in the world," Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said in a statement Monday, Feb. 6.

"There’s no question American troops and their equipment can help us in a big way in critical life-saving disaster relief and recovery operations,” said Pimentel, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA).

Based on the 2022 World Risk Index, the Philippines is the most disaster-prone among 193 countries, with extreme vulnerability to destructive typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flash floods, storm surges, and landslides.

As recently as 14 months ago, the Philippines was pounded by super typhoon "Odette", which caused over $1 billion in damage and left nearly 500 people dead or missing.

Pimentel is also counting on the EDCA’s full performance “to boost the ability of Filipino and American military forces to effectively combine operations and act together when needed".

“We must stress that our readiness to put our Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) into action, when needed, is our best deterrence to potential foreign acts of aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS),” Pimentel said.

Pimentel is a staunch backer of robust military cooperation between the Philippines and the US, and previously served as chairperson of the House strategic intelligence committee.

Manila and Washington earlier agreed to designate four additional EDCA sites in the Philippines where US troops and their equipment may be stationed on a rotational basis. This brought to nine the total of local bases covered by EDCA.

The designation of the new EDCA sites in the provinces of Isabela, Cagayan, Zambales and Palawan coincided with the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Austin reaffirmed that America’s MDT with the Philippines “applies to armed attacks on either of our armed forces, public vessels or aircraft anywhere in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea".

The five existing EDCA locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City; Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Ramon Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and Aurora; Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu; and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.