Director for Digital Media and Strategy
Office of the Secretary of Defense
Why the EDCA Matters
The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is one of the United States’ primary foreign policy missions because as Secretary Carter has said, the Asia-Pacific is the “single most consequential region” for America’s future.
A central part of the rebalance strategy includes modernizing our long-standing defense alliances in the region, particularly with the Philippines. Our relationship with the Philippines began more than 70 years ago through the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. Recently, that alliance was strengthened under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – a pact that would, among other things, give U.S. troops and equipment access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis.
Although the EDCA was first signed by U.S. and Filipino leaders in 2014, it went through nearly two years of constitutional challenges in the Philippines Supreme Court before it was finally upheld this past January.
This agreement is a significant step forward for both countries. As we support the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces and strengthen our mutual defense, this agreement will allow the United States and Philippines to increase the complexity of their combined training, activities, and exercises – including major bilateral exercises like the recent Balikatan exercise in which our service members trained with the Philippines on humanitarian assistance and maritime operations. These rotations and activities improve our ability to work together and quickly respond to any manner of crisis, man-made or natural disaster.
Last month, the State and Defense Departments announced the slate of five initial EDCA agreed locations arrayed at Philippine military bases throughout the archipelago. The locations are: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.
This week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Manila, Philippines and announced that the United States and the Philippines are moving forward with implementing the EDCA agreement. This is a landmark decision because it will advance the security interests of both sides as well as enhance joint cooperation. This agreement gives us a chance to help the Filipino military improve the existing military infrastructure, such as runways, at these five agreed locations.
During his trip, Secretary Carter toured one of the five EDCA agreed locations – Antonio Bautista Air Base – and announced that some of the U.S. personnel that were in the Philippines for the Balikatan exercise will stay in place on a rotational basis to improve command and control with the Filipino Armed Forces. He said additional enhanced coordination activities will include advanced fighter aircraft, and we’ll be transferring a third high-endurance cutter and a research vessel to the Philippines later this year.
This historic agreement will ultimately allow us to do even more in the region to advance our counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and intelligence sharing efforts.
The EDCA underscores our commitment to our regional allies and to our shared interest in reinforcing a security architecture that promotes cooperation not coercion, and thereby strengthens the incentives for all actors to play by the rules of a principled international order.