A Philippine soldier arranges a Javelin anti-tank weapon system next to US soldiers during a live exercise in Nueva Ecija province, north of Manila on Apr 13, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
MANILA — The people of Cagayan province in the northern Philippines plan to hold more rallies to oppose the expanding military presence of the United States in the region.
A local newspaper, The Northern Forum, reported that more than 1,000 people led by Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba gathered at a public park of Tuguegarao City on Monday to express their protest against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in Northern Luzon where US troops can train and position military equipment and supplies.
Clarita Lunas, a retired government employee, was among those who initiated the first rally. The newspaper quoted her as saying that their group will make the rounds of villages to educate the people on the perils of the EDCA sites
According to the newspaper, it was the first of the planned anti-EDCA rallies this month.
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The protesters, representing different sectors including government officials, carried colorful placards, demanding "No to US bases in Cagayan!"
Mamba appealed to the national government to heed his constituents' call to deny US access to two military facilities in his province.
The governor said two EDCA sites in Cagayan could drag the province into the rising tension in the region.
"To us here in Cagayan, EDCA is tantamount to war," Mamba said.
Clarita Lunas, a retired government employee, was among those who initiated the first rally. The newspaper quoted her as saying that their group will make the rounds of villages to educate the people on the perils of the EDCA sites.
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The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States. However, the Philippine constitution bars the presence of foreign military bases, troops, or facilitates on Philippine soil.
Signed in 2014, the EDCA allows increased US forces, ships, aircraft, and equipment in the Philippines and greater access to Philippine military facilities on a rotational basis.
In February, the Philippines allowed US military access to four additional military sites on top of the five previously agreed locations nationwide.