PH, US agree to expedite completion of projects under EDCA

MANILA—The Philippines and the United States have agreed to expedite the completion of projects in existing agreed locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and finalize procedures for the adoption of additional agreed locations.

This came after senior Philippine and US foreign affairs and defense officials convened in Manila for the 10th Philippines-United States Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) on Thursday and Friday.

There are no specifics yet on the new locations.

“We have agreed to finalize the procedures for the additional agreed locations. In fact, it is a work in progress. Sooner or later, in a few months, hopefully, we would be able to give the exact response to your question. But right now, it’s a work in progress,” DFA Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro told reporters in a joint press conference.

“When it comes to issues related to EDCA and Mutual Defense Treaty, I come here to reiterate America’s iron-clad commitment to the security of the Republic of the Philippines and iron-clad commitment to meeting our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” visiting Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink told reporters in a joint press conference.

“As part of our alliance cooperation, of course, we engage on that which is related to EDCA. I think you’re aware of the importance of the EDCA agreement to our ability to further cooperation as allies, to contribute to further modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

A joint statement issued following the meeting also said that the Philippines welcomed the offer of the United States “to hold regular consultations with a view to identifying joint maritime activities that the two countries can undertake.”

“Reiterating the importance of maintaining and promoting an international law-based maritime order in the South China Sea, in accordance with UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal decision, and recognizing the value of an integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing maritime issues, the Philippines and United States plan to convene this year the 2nd Maritime Dialogue, which will build on the outcomes of the inaugural Dialogue held in Manila in April 2022,” the joint statement said.

The United States will serve as host of the 2nd Maritime Dialogue.

To prepare for and respond to emerging threats, the Philippines and the United States committed to complete “a full assessment of the cyber threat landscape in the Philippines, and establishing next steps to counter cyber threats, among other measures.”

At the end of the meeting, the United States government, through the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) announced that it is providing NOW Telecom Company, Inc. a P118 million ($2.15 million) grant to fund a feasibility study “for the development of reliable and secure nationwide 5G mobile and broadband networks in the Philippines.”

It aims to support “the digital transformation of the Philippines by helping to meet the growing demand for high-bandwidth, reliable, and secure digital services from households and industry in the Philippines.”

“Filipinos can and should be secure online. Securing against malicious cyber activities is difficult even in the best of times but it is infinitely more difficult when the risk comes from the entity that built and may maintain access to a telecommunications network,” Kritenbrink said.