Carlson visits EDCA fuel depot

The United States will build a new fuel depot at the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, or MBEAB, in Lapu-Lapu City under its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson confirmed the project on Tuesday during a visit to the air base.

She said the US government will spend $2 million (P111 million) to build the depot, which will have the capacity to store up to 40,000 liters of fuel.

The depot is expected to be completed by September or October 2023, she said.

“Our militaries work at the ground level. They come up with plans. They look at what they need to make sure that they can safeguard and secure lives and livelihoods,” Carlson told local media.

“Once that site is completed, it enhances interoperability between US forces and Philippine forces. But that site belongs to the Philippines,” she said.

Carlson explained the project is part of America’s commitment to help the Philippines defend itself against terrorism and other threats. She also said it is a sign of the strong partnership between the two countries.

The construction of the fuel depot is the latest in a series of projects under EDCA. The agreement, which was signed in 2014, allows the US to rotationally deploy troops and equipment to Philippine military bases.

EDCA critics have argued that the deal gives the US too much control over Philippine territory. However, the government has defended the agreement, saying it is necessary to strengthen the country’s defense.

Before his visit to the US, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he would not allow the EDCA sites, originally numbering five with four additional sites, to be used as staging points for offensive operations against other countries.

Geopolitical experts said that EDCA sites can provide the US with a forward operating base from which to project power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Of late, China has been increasingly assertive in its claims to the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing has built artificial islands on some of the reefs and shoals in the area, actions being seen as attempts to militarize the South China Sea.

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