Cagayan naval facility eyed as US temporary base

By Elena L. Aben
Manila Bulletin 

Santa-Ana-Cagayan-mapSta. Ana, Cagayan – The United States is eyeing the use of a naval facility in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, as temporary base of its troops under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Local executives privy to the recent visit of US authorities to Sta. Ana have expressed willingness to host the American forces citing the economic benefits it will provide to their once sleepy town.

The visit, they said, took place about two months ago during which US authorities went to see the Camilo Osias Naval Base.

Located at the northern tip of Cagayan, the military facility has operational jurisdiction over the country’s northern front. It has a port and an airfield that can accommodate C-130 cargo planes, suiting one of the requirements being considered by US military leadership on their planned increased deployment of forces in the country.

Santa-Ana-CagayanThe officials said an international airport currently under construction may have also bolstered the interest of the Americans to station some of their troops in this town. The international airport in the nearby Lallo town, now 80 percent complete, is being built to further bolster tourism in the northern end of the Cagayan province.

A military official, on the other hand, said US embassy representatives accompanied the US authorities who came to Sta. Ana about two months ago.

“They’re from the US embassy… meron kasama, less than five sila,” said the source.

“Tinatanong ng LGU (local government unit) kung ano pakay nila, but they said they are just visiting the place,” he added.

Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, when asked if the naval base in Cagayan is among the five military camps being considered for stationing of US troops under the EDCA, replied: “This is still to be agreed upon.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) had earlier said three of the country’s military facilities being considered for sharing with their US counterparts under the defense agreement are Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Ouster Bay in Palawan, and Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales.

The defense pact was signed by Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg last April 28, hours before US President Barack Obama arrived in the country for a state visit.

The agreement updates and builds on the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. It allows the United States to pre-position relief supplies in the Philippines, but does not provide for permanent US bases in the country.

EDCA is also seen to help the US-Philippine alliance continue to promote the peace and stability that has underpinned Asia’s remarkable economic growth over the past six decades.

Amid questions on its legality, the defense department stressed EDCA complies with the Philippine Constitution and other existing laws, and that “the interest of the country has been paramount in this negotiation.”

MORE US INFLUENCE

In Australia, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on the US to exercise more influence in Asia to help counter rising instability in the South China Sea, saying that talk of China eclipsing US power in the region was overdone.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of a conference focused on China’s growing economic and strategic clout, Ms. Bishop said escalating tension between Beijing and its regional neighbours – including Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam – was of growing concern.

“We want to see more leadership from the United States in the region, not less,” Ms. Bishop said. “We condemn unilateral, coercive action by any party,” she added, echoing anxiety that China is proving increasingly willing to flex its muscles in regional disputes.

The remarks come in the same week in which President Obama laid out a foreign-policy vision criticized by some for brushing over US priorities in Asia, and amid growing alarm in Washington over China’s cyber-espionage capabilities.

Concerns about China’s territorial ambitions have been heightened in recent weeks, as Chinese and Vietnam vessels have scuffled repeatedly in disputed waters of the South China Sea, near an oil rig placed there by a state-owned Chinese company. This week, the two sides traded accusations over responsibility for the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat near the rig.

Likewise, Japan and China traded accusations on Sunday after close encounters between the two nation’s military aircraft the day before. Each accused the other side of acting provocatively.

These events are likely to be addressed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday as he delivers a speech setting out his vision of Japan playing a more robust role in regional security, including helping counter China’s perceived buildup in strength and ambition. In fact, China and Japan are expected this weekend to set out rival visions for the future of Asia-Pacific security, as defense ministers and military leaders converge on Singapore for a summit meeting. (With a report from Wall Street Journal)

 http://www.mb.com.ph/cagayan-naval-facility-eyed-as-us-temporary-base/


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