U.S. and Philippine defense officials marked the completion of their Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement site project at Basa Air Base in a ceremony unveiling a refurbished runway on Monday.
Efforts to repair and upgrade the runway to accommodate larger aircraft began in March. The runway was expected to be completed in September. A Philippine Air Force press release emphasized that the rehabilitated runway will “ensure safer conditions” for training exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
Costing about $25 million, the project to renovate the Philippine Air Force base’s 2,800-meter-long runway is the largest investment made by Washington under EDCA, which allows American forces to operate, store equipment and construct facilities at select military bases across the longtime U.S. treaty ally.
Basa Air Base, home to the Philippine Air Force’s sole fighter squadron, is one of nine sites designated for U.S. access under the EDCA. The U.S. has allocated $66 million out of the $82 million earmarked for EDCA projects at the air base, making Basa the largest investment to date. The first project built under the agreement, a warehouse dedicated to housing equipment and supplies for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, was constructed at Basa in 2019. Other completed and prospective projects at Basa include command and control infrastructure, fuel storage and aircraft parking.
Since 2014, EDCA has expanded from five sites to nine. The most recent expansion was declared at the beginning of this year amid a series of incidents between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea, and as Washington renewed its relationship with Manila under the Philippines’ new Marcos administration. Of the four new sites declared in April, three are in Northern Luzon facing Taiwan. The placement of these bases, while addressed by Philippine officials as necessary for national defense, prompted concern from senators and even a thinly veiled threat from the Chinese Ambassador against Filipino Workers in Taiwan.
During the U.S.-Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, Washington committed to increasing its EDCA investments from the current $82 million to over $100 million by the end of FY2023. These investments also boost the Philippine economy, with the majority of contracts going to Philippine contractors.
In September, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Chief Adm. John Aquilino visited Basa during his tour of EDCA sites across the Philippines, calling the construction progress “truly impressive.”
“We’re very pleased. I was here a year ago, and the progress of the runway and all the sites is moving at a great pace, thanks to our strong partnership,” Aquilino remarked in September.