GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 September) — Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers and brother Governor Lyndon Barbers want their province to be an additional site under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
If designated, Surigao del Norte will be the second EDCA site in Mindanao after the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City, and will be the 10th EDCA site in the country.
The lawmaker invited the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military to inspect the province for its inclusion as an EDCA site.
“Our province is situated on the Northeastern tip of Mindanao facing the Pacific Ocean. Its deep waters can accommodate the huge naval ships of the United States,” Rep. Barbers said in a statement on Saturday.
Surigao del Norte has a distinct advantage as it is openly facing the Pacific Ocean yet has an outlet to the West Philippine Sea (WPS), he added.
China has been claiming the WPS as part of the South China Sea. Beijing had rejected The Hague Arbitral Ruling favorable to the Philippines involving the contested maritime area.
Rep. Barbers said that the province becoming an EDCA site has a strategic advantage in that Philippine and US ships can traverse the country from East to West and vice-versa without needing to circle around.
According to him, the presence of Philippine and US military forces in their province will discourage any hostile activity and even posturing by foreign forces both civilian or otherwise.”
Surigao del Norte is renowned for its world class surfing spot, Siargao, which has been hosting international surfing competitions. The province also hosts several mining operations.
Governor Barbers said setting up an EDCA base in Surigao del Norte “would benefit not only the province but the whole eastern regions of the Visayas and Mindanao.”
“In times of calamities, aid can be delivered fast and wide. Immediate assistance and relief will prevent loss of countless lives and massive damage. Remember that our region is always under threat from nature’s wrath, be it super typhoons or strong earthquakes,” he said.
“Best of all,” Rep. Barbers said, “the people will warmly welcome the Americans, our long time friends and allies.”
He said the establishment of an EDCA site in Surigao del Norte “will surely spur economic prosperity to the region, to which the people will be happy about.”
“The mere presence of our armed forces and our allies will greatly enhance our confidence building measures. Our fisherfolks will have nothing to worry about being driven away by hostile forces within our own territory,” the lawmaker said.
At present, the country has nine EDCA sites: the first five — Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cabu, Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro – and the four additional sites established this year: TCamilo Osias Naval Base and Lal-lo Airport both in Cagayan; Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in the West Philippine Sea. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)