US to start building facilities in Philippines military camps this year

Manila, Jan 26 (IANS) The US military will start building facilities in the Philippines military camps this year.

The plan is part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that Washington and Manila signed in 2014, Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency .

“According to the Pentagon, they will start constructing some facilities in the EDCA chosen camps. I think the first camp where they will develop these facilities is in Basa,” Lorenzana said, referring to the air base in Pampanga province near Subic and Clark, the former US military bases that were converted into economic zones.

Relations between the long time allies have plunged after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to snap military ties, saying Manila needed to overcome the colonial mindset.

The Philippines became a US colony in 1898 and remained one until 1933.

Aside from Basa, the US armed forces also plan to build facilities in Antonio Bautista Air Base located in Palawan, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province in the main Luzon island, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro province in the southern Philippines and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu in central Philippines.

The Philippines constitution bars the presence of foreign military bases, troops, or facilitates on its soil. However, Lorenzana said facilities that will be put up in these camps would be used by American troops to store their equipment.

Lorenzana said that President Rodrigo Duterte is aware of and agrees with the proposed projects.

“It’s okay (with him) because he has said that we will honour all agreements that were entered into by the previous government. So, that’s okay with him.”

Duterte has criticised the US for “treating the Philippines like a dog on a leash,” and has warned the US that he would like to see them go and not maintain their presence in the Philippines.

He even warned of scrapping EDCA and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

EDCA allows for the increased presence of US forces, ships, aircraft and equipment in the Philippines and greater access to Philippines military bases.