DND: EDCA meant to boost PH defense capabilities, not for war

MANILA – The Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States is aimed at improving the country’s defensive capabilities and is not meant for war.

In a statement Thursday night, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. emphasized that the bilateral agreement does not seek to interfere with the domestic affairs of other nations.

“The geopolitical situation is becoming more precarious by the day. Our projects under EDCA and our other defense partnerships are not intended for aggression. We are not preparing for war, rather we are aiming to develop our defense capabilities against eventualities and threats to our security,” he added.

Galvez also stressed that projects under EDCA are geared towards enhancing facility readiness of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as part of its modernization efforts to speed up external defense development.

“As the Commander-in-Chief, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. directed the AFP recently, we are shifting our focus towards territorial defense, especially in the West Philippine Sea (WPS),” the DND chief added.

Previous military engagements and exercises with Philippines allies used to focus on internal security operations. “Now, we are eyeing to strengthen our abilities to respond to external threats that may arise along our border-areas,” Galvez said.

He also added that the DND is aiming to achieve an optimal number and locations of the EDCA sites to maximize their coverage of the Philippine archipelago.

“We understand the apprehensions expressed by our local chief executives about EDCA and our bilateral exercises. However, we must consider the volatile situation in which we operate and not view our country in isolation,” Galvez added.

“The Philippines straddles a crucial location in the Pacific, and we have seaboards to the north, south, east and west. All of these must be monitored and protected,” he said.

Last month, the DND announced that Manila and Washington D.C. agreed to designate four new EDCA “agreed locations”.

EDCA, along with the Visiting Forces Agreement, operationalizes the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). It was signed in 2014 but its implementation was delayed due to various reasons.

“EDCA was met with legal challenges, but the Supreme Court eventually upheld its constitutionality in 2016. Coupled with other technical issues, which have since been resolved, and the restrictions brought by the pandemic, the implementation of the projects under EDCA was delayed for many years,” Galvez explained.

He also added that the identification of new sites for additional EDCA “Agreed Locations” is actually long overdue. Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) shared that projects under EDCA are being prioritized and funded by the US side.

“To date, the United States has allotted and committed a total of USD82.68 million to complete all of these projects,” DFA Secretary Enrique A. Manalo said during the Senate Committee Hearing on Foreign Relations on March 1.

“These new EDCA locations will allow more rapid response for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, as well as respond to other shared challenges,” he added.

Galvez also noted that undertaking projects under EDCA is one of the DND and AFP’s various efforts to prepare for contingencies in the domestic and regional spheres.

These include responding to natural disasters and calamities, evacuating Filipino citizens in the region whenever needed, undertaking search and rescue operations, and defending against invasion.

“The MDT is founded on the principle of peace and promotion of regional stability. These underpin our activities and projects under EDCA,” Galvez pointed out.

“As a nation, we renounce war as a foreign policy. However, we are committed to exhaust all available means and the resources available to us to defend our national interests,” he added.

The DND chief also emphasized that the Philippines continues to forge ties not only with the United States, but also with friends, allies and like-minded nations.

“While we are further deepening and seeking ways to modernize our long-standing alliance with the US, we are pursuing engagements with many other like-minded nations. We are hopeful for the continued support of the Filipino people in these endeavors,” Galvez said. (PNA)

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