New EDCA sites to allow 'seamless' cooperation between US, PH troops vs Indo-Pacific challenges — Pentagon

The four new bases in the Philippines where US troops will have access to under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will allow forces of both countries to "seamlessly" address various challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US Department of Defense made the remark on Monday night after Malacañang finally identified the four new bases that will be accessible for American forces in the Philippines.

"These new locations will strengthen the interoperability of the US and Philippine Armed Forces and allow us to respond more seamlessly together to address a range of shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including natural and humanitarian disasters," the Pentagon said.

The four new sites are the  Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan.

They will join the five existing sites that American troops already have access to. They are: Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Basa Air Base in Pampanga; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan; Mactan-Benito Abuen Air Base in Cebu; and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan De Oro.

According to the Pentagon, it will "work in lockstep" with the Philippine Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines "to rapidly pursue modernization projects at these locations."

On top of the US$82 million it has already allocated for infrastructure investment at existing EDCA sites, Pentagon said it is also planning to expand its funding to "spur economic growth and job opportunities in their respective provinces."

This developed while China, US' main rival that is also showing military might in the region, criticized the military partnership between the US and the Philippines by warning that it is "seriously endanger[ing] regional peace and stability" and "drag[ging] the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development at the end of the day."

For Washington, its activities around EDCA sites will remain "responsive to the needs and priorities of local communities."

"We continue to consult closely with the Philippines on new opportunities that serve our shared interests," the Pentagon said.

Saying the US and the Philippines "have stood shoulder-to-shoulder" for the past 70 years, Pentagon said that "the strides we are making to expand the EDCA and modernize the alliance will ensure this vision endures far into the future."