SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has expressed its support to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that would allow the increased presence of American troops in the country.
SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, in a briefing on Monday, told the Samahan ng Mamamahayag sa Subic Bay Freeport (SMSBF) that the Subic agency managing the former US military base is in favor of the new agreement as this would strengthen national security.
Garcia, however, stressed that although there is no detail coming from Malacanang as yet, “clearly, no US bases will be put up in Subic.”
The pact merely allows increased presence of US military troops, ships and planes on rotation basis, Garcia added.
The briefing was held while US Pres. Barrack Obama and Pres. Benigno Aquino III met in Malacanang on Monday. The EDCA was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg.
Obama arrived in Manila on Monday as part of his Asian tour that sought for the rebalancing of power in the region.
Garcia also noted that even without the EDCA, the Subic Bay Freeport already plays an important role in national security because it is now the home port of frigates BRP Alcaraz (PF-16) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), the newest additions to the Philippine Navy fleet.
One squadron of combat planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is also expected to be stationed at the former Federal Express (FedEx) terminal inside the Subic Bay International Airport, Garcia said.
The SBMA official also contended that the new security agreement became necessary because of the series of incidents in the West Philippine Sea, especially in the area of the Scarborough Shoal, where Filipino fishermen were barred by Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
Meanwhile, a handful of protesters staged an anti-US rally in front of the main gate of the Subic Bay Freeport to denounce the visit of Pres. Obama.
Garcia said the protesters were allowed to finish their rally at their own time.
“We allowed them to express their sentiments, as that is their right. We did not disperse them, but we did not allow them to come inside the Freeport, as this is a rally-free area,” Garcia added.