DND, DFA okay Cagayan as site for new US military base

US also allocated $23 million to upgrade Basa Air Base in Pampanga despite Galvez's claim in March 1, 2023 Senate hearing sites remain "unidentified"

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DESPITE strong opposition from local officials, a cross-section of Philippine society worried over the country being dragged into a planned American war against China by using Taiwan as a pretext and over the barefaced denial from Philippine defense and foreign affairs officials headed by Department of National Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, the province of Cagayan in Northern Luzon has been designated as another site for a new US military base under the 2014 EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement).

The inclusion of Cagayan was confirmed in two communications between the DND and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that were furnished to Pinoy Exposé by a “very concerned” source who was “repelled” by the alleged “brazen lie” aired by Galvez during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last March 1, 2023 chaired by Senator Imee Marcos, elder sister of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr..

In that hearing, Marcos bared that not only Cagayan, but the provinces of Isabela and Zambales are also being eyed by the US as additional bases for its war preparations against China.

With the consent of President Marcos, the US would be getting more military bases in the country with 4 more new bases aside from the existing 5 bases it was given, all through EDCA.

Sen. Marcos also questioned Galvez why the DND and the national security establishment are allowing the country to be dragged in the anti-China campaign by the US using the issue of Taiwan thru the new American bases in Northern Luzon.

“I just need to understand why are you choosing all these sites in Northern Luzon when in fact if it were West Philippine Sea deterrence that were uppermost in our minds, the protection of our territorial sovereignty, surely it should be in the western sector not purely in the northern,” Marcos said.

“Nag-shift na po ba tayo at hindi na yung territorial integrity kundi yung escalation ng tension sa Taiwan Straits ang ating tinutumbok nito,” she asked.

The President’s sister also questioned why all the Philippine Armed Forces’ military exercises with the United States suddenly shifted north of the country. “Gentlemen, what is our fight with Taiwan? I don’t understand. So why are we doing all the military exercises in Northern Luzon– a stone’s throw or at least a boat ride away from Taiwan.

“Then clearly, the new expanded EDCA is addressing the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Straits, not Philippine interest in the West Philippine Sea. We are therefore going to fight for another country, the United States. Is that correct, sir?” Marcos asked Galvez.

Cagayan, Pampanga, new sites of US military bases

To the above questions, Galvez evaded giving a direct answer, lamely claiming that the 4 new sites for US bases are still “under negotiation” and the actual sites remain “unidentified.”

A social media post by the Cagayan PIO showing Gov. Manuel Mamba with DND OIC/Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. after their “important meeting” at the DND, March 14, 2023. With them are DND Assistant Secretary Pablo Lorenzo, OSAIA, and, Ret. Gen. Roberto Damian, Head Consultant of Mamba. No detail of what was discussed was released like the national government’s decision to make Cagayan the site of another US military base in the country over Mamba’s vehement opposition.

But according to the documents, the DND, sometime in 2022 “and as recommended by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” had already designated the Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA) “as an additional proposed location” under EDCA, as well the “repair” of the Cesar Basa Air Base (BAB) in Floridablanca, Pampanga province.

“As recommended by the Armed Force of the Philippines, the Department shares the view that developing the CNA as an additional location as well as the inclusion of the BAB Runway Repair as an additional project under EDCA may be favorably considered given its strategic value of constructing facilities and prepositioning defense assets in these (CNIA/BAB) areas,” the DND memorandum reads.

The decision, clearly, was already made several months before the March 1 Senate hearing and where Galvez had denied Marcos’ assertion that Cagayan would become another site for another US military facility in the country, asserting the actual sites remain “unidentified.”

Signatory to the document forwarded to the DFA’s Assistant Secretary for Office of American Affairs (OAA), was the DND’s Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments and International Affair (OSAIA).

Prior to the resignation of former DND officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr., last January 6, 2023 and his being replaced by Galvez, the OSAIA was under Henry Robinson Jr.

The post is now under Pablo Lorenzo, also a retired AFP general, who swapped his post at the Office of Plans and Programs (OPP) with Robinson.

The DND memo appears to be in response to an “extremely urgent” request by the US Embassy for the Philippines, thru the OAA, to act on its allocation of US$ 23 million for the rehabilitation of the Basa Air Base due to “US accounting and congressional notification purposes.”

Significantly, the OAA noted in its memo to DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo about “the inclusion of the endorsement (by the DND/AFP) of Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA) as an Agreed Location (for a new US base) for strictly information purposes only at this time.”

At present the OAA post is being held by Assistant Secretary Jose Victor Chan Gonzaga.

Given the existence of these documents and the details they contain and possibly, the existence of other documents of the same nature, the source said the DND and the DFA were “not forthcoming,” in other words, lying thru their teeth during the March 1 Senate hearing chaired by Marcos when they claimed the locations of the new US bases are yet to be finalized.

Significantly, the decision by the national government to include Cagayan as a US military base and the site of more aggressive military exercises between US and Filipino troops that include live fire drills, was made despite the vehement opposition of the local population, including Governor Manuel Mamba.

Mamba had also bared during the hearing that US Embassy officials humiliated him in front of Philippine Army officials (who did nothing) when they went to visit him several days before in an effort to convinced him to allow US military presence in his province.

(The social media post of Mamba indicates the incident happened last February 2, 2023, when he was visited by Edward O’Brien, First Secretary, Political Section, US Embassy– Editor).

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