By Willard Cheng | ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Tuesday raised the possibility that the Philippines was placed on a losing end of the bargain when it signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.
During the hearing of Senate committee on national defense and security on the EDCA, Marcos pointed out that a provision in the agreement says that the Philippines would have to pay the US for "improvements or construction" in agreed locations where US troops would be given access. (Article 5, end of paragraph 2)
"So magbabayad pa tayo. Magbabayad pa tayo doon sa kanilang itinayo... So para masyado naman tayong lugi sa usapan na ito," Marcos told the Philippine panel that negotiated the EDCA.
Panel member Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre said that the agreement contains provisions on "shared and joint use of infrastructure upgrades as well as prepositioning of materials."
She also said that the agreement would help efforts to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and "boost the country's maritime security and maritime domain awareness" by equipping AFP personnel with knowledge on how to operate and maintain certain military hardware and defense systems.
"Even before we have this advanced hardware, even before we are able to purchase these defense systems, our AFP will already know how to operate and maintain them. So there is this possibility that the shared use and joint use of prepositioned material could help accelerate the AFP modernization programs," Yparraguirre said.
Marcos also pointed out that the EDCA did not specifically limit or set the number of AFP bases that US troops can access, and asked the panel if they can establish a presence anywhere in the country.
Panel member and Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino said that the direction of the department is to "limit" access to a few bases and that it would be subject to agreement and would be consented to by the Philippine government.
Batino reiterated that the presence of US troops will be "rotational" and there is no intention to build US bases.
Batino said that it is still under study whether Subic would be offered as a location that the US can access.
Senator Loren Legarda said that no facilities would be built in environmental protected areas, as well as geohazard areas.