The expedited full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between Manila and Washington will ensure the immediate availability of U.S. military personnel and logistics to assist the Philippines in responding to natural disasters, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Monday.
“We are the most disaster-prone country in the world. 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,” Pimentel said.
The 2022 World Risk Index has tagged the Philippines as 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 cost over US $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 into action, when needed, is our best deterrence to potential foreign acts of aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel is a staunch backer of robust military cooperation between the Philippines and the U.S., 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 U.S. troops and their equipment may be stationed on a rotational basis.
The designation of the new EDCA sites in the provinces of Isabela, Cagayan, Zambales and Palawan coincided with the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Austin reaffirmed that America’s Mutual Defense Treaty 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 new sites would increase the EDCA locations in the country to nine.
There are five existing EDCA locations in 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.