The EDCA bases
What we learned
There are apparently five bases the US will use for staging equipment and housing troops that are rotated through the Philippines [PH, US agree on 5 ‘bases’; Inquirer]:
- Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
- Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro, northwestern Mindanao
- Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga province
- Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province
- Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu
No naval bases. No Clark. No Subic. Four air bases spread strategically across the Philippines. The largest military reservation in the Philippines where the Philippine Army trains, and where joint exercises are frequently undertaken.
We also learned that the better part of $50 million will be spent to get the bases ready to house American equipment and troops.
We learned that some local officials are wary about having American troops in their communities. The reservations are:
- Security threat (presumably terrorist or Chinese attacks on the bases or communities)
- Likely prostitution
The main benefit they see is a boost to the local economy.
Finally, we learned that leftists will protest around the bases.
What can we deduce from the selection of these bases?
Let’s bullet-point a few takeaways:
- US Navy operations are already well-established at various naval bases in the region (Singapore, Okinawa, Japan, South Korea, Guam). The US Navy currently has a Carrier Group patrolling regularly in the South China Sea. [Navy Bases; Navy aircraft carrier group moves into contested South China Sea]
- Subic can be used for service of ships on a contract basis, as is done now.
- The emphasis is likely on air reconnaissance, support of AFP, storm relief, and training (Magsaysay), with limited striking power.
- The US will probably use the four air bases for housing of reconnaissance aircraft, relief aircraft (helicopters; C-130s) and perhaps a few tactical aircraft (helicopters, jets).
- Funding is modest so will likely include barracks for pilots and service crews, an operations center, and aircraft service facility on each airbase. No major troop facilities are likely to be built on the bases, even at Magsaysay.
- The move-in will be modest in scale in terms of numbers of people. We don’t know what equipment might be brought in (radars, aircraft, missiles, drones).
Here are the locations of the five bases (yellow stars, red typeface):
We can’t know exactly how the bases will be used, but the locations are perfect for providing air reconnaissance, air support of AFP, and disaster relief coverage of four major geographic areas: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and Palawan/Spratleys.
The Cebu location is central and could be (in our imaginations) an operational command center and/or staging area for more substantial aircraft and weaponry. The Magsaysay base would likely be dedicated to joint training and coordination practice for AFP and American forces using sophisticated weaponry.
This is a “gentle” entry by the US to establish a framework for air reconnaissance, air support, training and disaster relief. It does not entail the presence of thousands of US troops as we see in Japan and South Korea. This approach is likely justified by multiple and mutual benefits: specific tactical needs (coverage areas; training facilities), modest funding requirement, not upsetting Filipinos with an overbearing presence, and not upsetting China with a warlike presence.
A lot of bang for the buck . . .
A good foundation that can be scaled according to need as determined by two nations working in partnership.