By NITZ ARANCON
MAYOR Oscar Moreno over the weekend said he was open to the idea of the Lumbia airport being offered to the US as a place where it can build facilities in order to store military equipment and supplies based on a security agreement that was upheld by the Supreme Court.
The Lumbia airport, now being used by the Air Force after commercial flights were moved to the Laguindingan airport in Misamis Oriental, is one of the areas being eyed for American use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
The other sites include those in Nueva Ecija, Clark, Palawan, and Cebu, among others.
Moreno said he sees no problem with the use of the old airport for American facililities, pointing out that it could even benefit the city in the long run.
“Open ako sa idea,” he said.
But Moreno said this possibility should not compromise city hall’s planned city expansion towards the Lumbia area. He said the plan is based on the Achieving Sustainable Urban Development (Asud) program made with the help of the UN Habitat.
Moreno said the Lumbia airport has the potentials of becoming like Fort Bonifacio, the Lahug airport in Cebu, and the Ayala Triangle in Makati City.
“Do you know that the Ayala Triangle used to be an airport? Now, it’s the biggest commercial center in the country,” he said.
He said the local government plans to pursue the expansion program to Lumbia, and turn the village into a commercial area with or without US facilities being built there.
“Puwede man na i-combined, and take into account also the possible Edca use,” Moreno said.
Based on the security agreement, the US may build structures, store and preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels and aircraft for a period of 10 years.
The government said the Edca does not mean that the US could build military bases in the country.
Voting 0-4-1, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the Edca which allows the expansion of US presence in the country through access to local military bases.
The decision came amid China’s aggressive posture over disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea, also being claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
President Aquino said the basic logic behind Edca “is interoperability, and anybody who is reasonable will see that this agreement is an enhancement of both our countries’ abilities, rather than a threat to anyone else
“To my mind, Edca has a very practical purpose for developing our own Armed Forces: All the modern hardware carries a significant price tag; yet with Edca, we have a chance to try the cutting-edge equipment and see just how suitable they are to our needs, without having to buy them first.”
He said there was a need for the Philippines and the US to become familiar with each others resources, equipment, doctrines and limitations to fulfill their long-standing commitment to defend each other in times of need as strategic allies.
“If we get to train with the US, a far more advanced force, we can learn from them the strengths and shortcomings in using such equipment, and we can even redefine and understand such under our own parameters. On the reverse side, the US gets to learn how to make do with fewer resources, which in a conflict situation is always a high probability if not an intense possibility,” Aquino said.