Progressive Groups Condemn Expansion of EDCA Sites Amid Human Rights Concerns

July 2, 2024

Progressive groups in the Philippines have vehemently opposed the expansion of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites throughout the country, citing grave concerns over violations of human rights in militarized communities.

Recent investigations conducted by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – USA and P1NAS Peace Mission in key regions including Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Ilocos Norte, and Marawi City have unearthed multiple anomalies and violations associated with the EDCA Agreement.

In Cagayan Valley, it was discovered that the military has been using civilian buildings outside their designated bases to hide suspected weapons and war materials. Additionally, military exercises utilizing fishing boats have been observed, accompanied by restrictions on local fishing activities in Ilocos Sur during recent Balikatan Exercises.

Community leaders in Marawi City raised alarms over the construction of a military base funded through EDCA, which was allegedly undertaken without the consent or knowledge of the local government.

Moreover, communities near EDCA sites have reported a surge in red-tagging incidents. According to the investigating groups, leaders and residents critical of the militarization in their areas have been unfairly targeted.

The investigation was spurred by escalating tensions between the United States and China, with recent agreements between US President Biden and Marcos Jr. aiming to bolster US military presence in the Philippines, including plans for an additional 500 military exercises by 2024.

Renato Reyes of BAYAN expressed deep concern that the expansion of EDCA sites could heighten tensions between China and the US, potentially putting the Philippines in a difficult position. He called for an independent foreign policy stance and advocated for the abolition of both the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to safeguard Philippine sovereignty./PT

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