April 17, 2018
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Ambassador Sung Kim witnessed the ground breaking ceremony of the first major construction project under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Pampanga on Tuesday.
The ceremony marking the start of constructing a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) storage facility or warehouse project under EDCA was held at the Basa Airbase in Pampanga Tuesday afternoon.
In an ambush interview, Kim said there is no specific timeline to finish the project.
“We don’t have a specific timeline yet but our intention is to build as quickly as possible so that we can keep going with the opportunities and facility…,” he said.
Lorenzana said the facility will store the HADR equipment of the US forces.
“Well HADR equipment meaning 6 x 6 trucks. Maybe they can bring in here rubber boats for HADR, and fuel for fueling their aircraft when it comes here. So these are all equipment, or tents that they can bring in calamity areas. These are equipment that they can use,” he said.
Lorenzana said the Americans can also bring their aircraft when the facility is completed.
“They can bring in here their ( equipment), because sometimes they bring their aircraft for training with our Philippine Air Force. They can also bring their aircraft here,” he said.
When asked why the construction facility for EDCA only began Tuesday years after the Supreme Court upholds its constitutionality, Lorenzana said: “As I understand.. the US armed forces is looking for money, for funds and it’s just made available this year.”
“I think it’s important to recognize that there are some preparatory work that’s required before you proceed with ground breaking construction. So we have been working diligently with Filipino partners and land surveys and other preparatory work to be able to proceed with actual construction and Basa Airbase. We have reached the point where we can actually start ground breaking and construction,” Kim explained.
In his remarks, Lorenzana emphasized the importance of the construction of the storage facility is not only for American forces but also for Filipinos.
“The EDCA H-A-D-R Warehouse will be of great value to us as it will serve as storage area for equipment and other supplies that will aid us greatly in providing assistance to the Filipino people during times of crisis and disasters,” he said.
“The prepositioning of equipment and supplies in a consolidated location increases our ability to respond quickly. Hence, it is the Filipino community that will ultimately benefit from this project which is not only a testament to our countries’ commitment to having a stronger alliance, but also to our desire to help one another grow capabilities together,” he added.
Lorenzana stressed the importance of EDCA on enhancing the Philippine and US alliance.
“The US-Philippines alliance is built on a strong foundation of shared values, sacrifices, and history. I know that EDCA is one of the sure ways to enhance our alliance and help promote peace and security in the region as it provides a framework through which both the Philippines and the United States will approach the evolving security challenges,” he said.
“As the EDCA also allows increase in training opportunities for the US and the Philippine forces, we can look forward to the increased interoperability of our forces and their improved ability to respond to humanitarian crises affecting the Philippines,” he added.
Lorenzana said “EDCA is a demonstration that our two nations are interested in long term solutions to shared problems.”
“We are truly thankful that the EDCA supports our government’s goal of promoting the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through development of certain facilities and bases such as this here in Basa,” he said.
“EDCA also helps the AFP in performing its roles in maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he added.
EDCA was signed by US and Philippine officials before the arrival of President Barack Obama during his visit in the country last April 28, 2014. Its legality was challenged before the Supreme Court, which voted 10-4, in 2016 to affirm its earlier ruling that the Philippine-US agreement is constitutional. Robina Asido/DMS
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