CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The US military will build facilities in the old Lumbia airport in this city under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed.
Gazmin, who was in the city earlier this week to attend the 46th Founding Anniversary of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that construction to upgrade the city airport will start within the year.
The defense chief said as soon as the required documents are processed in the coming months, US troops can "move in" to begin the construction of their facilities.
The Lumbia airport, the city’s old commercial airport, is now under the control of the 10th Tactical Operations Group of the Philippine Air Force, though the land belongs to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines-Department of Transportation and Communication.
Gazmin said that the Lumbia airport is one of the selected sites agreed upon by the Philippine government.
Under the EDCA, US forces are allowed to set up storage facilities and station forward personnel to maintain such facilities. These facilities must be being use by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (READ: SC rules: PH-US deal constitutional)
The US military calls these facilities pre-positioning areas wherein supplies, equipments ordnance and vehicles can be pre-positioned in storage in preparation for possible conflict.
Cesar Renario, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Northern Mindanao warned that the presence of US forces in Lumbia town would be disastrous for the city.
“Under the EDCA...US forces are allowed all forms of operations and activities in the agreed areas,” Renario claimed.
He said that EDCA allows the US military to station an unlimited number of troops, US military contractors, warships, fighter planes, arms including nuclear arms, without payment to the host government.
Renario also noted that Philippine authorities cannot even access these US facilities, just like the Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) compound inside Camp General Basilio Navarro, headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City where 700 American forces are stationed.
He added that US forces have used the Philippines as it staging area for its Asian pivot, which puts the Philippines as the next conflict area. “The US is protecting its Asian interest, not the interest of the Philippines,” Renario said.
The New People’s Army had earlier released a statement that US soldiers and facilities are legitimate targets of communist rebels. – Bobby Lagsa/Rappler.com