U.S. and Filipino Marines (in camouflage helmets) wade toward the beach during a simulated raid for Amphibious Landing Exercise at PHIBLEX15 in Palawan, Philippines. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private First Class Matthew Casbarro

The United States Congress has earmarked $66 million for the construction of eight military camps in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), Ambassador Philip Goldberg told media yesterday.

“Let me point out that we have about $66 million in foreign military funding in process for the Philippines and we expect that there will be additional sources of funds for both carrying out EDCA to military construction funds and also to increases in what we call the maritime security initiative,” Goldberg said at the Pandesal Forum in QC.

“So we will work through all of those figures and also working with our Congress, which of course you have to deal with as well in terms of what the Philippines may bring to the table,” he said.

“EDCA is designed to support what the Philippines is trying to do in terms of building a minimum credible defense, in terms of modernizing and equipping its armed forces,” he added.

He also said the the US will help the Philippines in establishing a National Coast Watch Center.

Aside from US, Japan and Australia are also helping the Philippines build a strong and credible defense system.

Joint patrols in West Philippine Sea

Goldberg also said that the United States is open to the possibility of joint naval patrols with the Philippines in the disputed waters of West Philippine Sea, saying it would continue exercising “freedom of navigation”.

I’m not going to pre-judge what we’re going to do or when we’re going to do it, whether we’re going to do it with the Philippines or with others. But we do discuss those principles with the Philippines and so I’m not discounting that possibility,” he said.

“But we’re not going to discuss that beforehand because it’s our view that we have every right under international law to exercise freedom of navigation in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and we will continue to do so,” he pointed out.

Goldberg said that the effort, is to help the country develop a dependable maritime security program. -John Esconde