To better understand the potential utility of U.S.-funded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites at Philippine military bases, AMTI has combined public reporting on official EDCA projects with satellite imagery analysis of all nine sites. The resulting catalogue of completed, in-progress, and planned facility upgrades provides a more robust picture of the capabilities that the EDCA sites would offer U.S. and Philippine forces in a contingency. It also reveals that while progress on EDCA implementation was brought to a standstill during the prior administration of Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine military undertook significant infrastructure upgrades at the five bases designated as EDCA sites in 2016.
Explore a map of current EDCA sites and read on for a detailed analysis of planned facilities and recent upgrades.
The Original Five Sites
In 2016, five Philippine military installations were designated as EDCA sites: Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro. But over the next six years, progress on implementing EDCA through the construction of joint facilities or prepositioning of U.S. assets at these bases was minimal.
It was only in 2022 after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. took office that EDCA implementation began to pick up steam. On November 15, 2022 the United States agreed to spend $66.5 million to accelerate construction projects at the five Philippine military bases outlined under EDCA over the next two years. The projects include construction of training, warehouse, and other facilities at Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, and Lumbia Air Base. On April 11, 2023, during the U.S.-Philippine 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington, the U.S. Department of Defense also announced its intention to allocate an additional $18 million on top of $82 million it said had already been allocated toward infrastructure investments at the existing EDCA sites.
In April 2023, Philippine foreign affairs secretary Enrique Manalo said only five EDCA projects had been completed to that point. He also said there had been “significant progress” on eight of the remaining 16 projects in the five initial locations, with six of them set for completion in 2023. But despite a delayed start to official EDCA projects, satellite imagery shows that significant infrastructure upgrades had been undertaken by the Philippines at all five original EDCA sites as far back as 2016.
Basa Air Base
Basa Air Base, situated in the province of Pampanga on the island of Luzon, has received more U.S. funding for infrastructure improvements than any other EDCA site to-date. As of March, $66.57 million had been allocated for a range of improvement projects, including a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) warehouse, command and control infrastructure, fuel storage, runway improvements, and aircraft parking.
On April 17, 2018, U.S. ambassador Sung Kim and Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first EDCA-related project to begin construction—the HADR warehouse at Basa Air Base. In 2019, Kim and Lorenzana also participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking its completion. The facility will be used to preposition equipment and supplies for responding to regional humanitarian crises.
But despite the fanfare surrounding the HADR warehouse, satellite imagery of Basa Air Base shows runway work and construction on new hangar and airport structures started even earlier. From 2017 to 2018, 250-meter portions of the runway at both northern and southern ends were ripped-up, repaved, and extended by 50 meters each. Four 20-meter wide hangars were constructed east of the runway, and two were constructed to the south. By 2019, the runway was extended by another 50 meters at both ends. By 2021, work seems to have been completed on a fuel storage facility.
On March 20, 2023, a $25-million project to rehabilitate the 2,800-meter (1.7 mi) runway was launched at Basa Air Base, which is, Philippine department of national defense Officer-in-Charge Carlito Galvez Jr. said, “expected to be completed in September 2023, and would make Basa Air Base ideal for the efficient conduct of joint task force exercises and as a natural hub for HADR operations.” Imagery from August 8 shows that the repaving of the runway has begun, but also that work on two more hangars to the south is nearing completion.
The United States has allocated $11.4 million to EDCA projects at Fort Magsaysay, a base in central Luzon that serves as a staging area and command and control facility for many training engagements including the annual Balikatan exercises. This is the second largest allocated U.S.-funding amount among EDCA sites, and is being put toward projects including a HADR warehouse, command and control infrastructure, and urban combat training facilities. Satellite imagery shows that modest airfield improvements have also been undertaken in recent years.
Fort Magsaysay is the home of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), whose emblem has been inscribed into terrain surrounding a building at the Fort since 2017.
Construction of buildings along the northwest edge of the runway and in a separate area to the north began in 2019, and by 2022 had expanded to include additional hangars and a parking apron. By 2022 an area of paved concrete was also added at the northern tip of the runway, possibly for an additional parking apron or future building construction. And imagery from June 2023 shows a new structure that matches the dimensions and appearance of the HADR warehouse at Basa Air Base approaching completion.
Antonio Bautista Air Base
Antonio Bautista Air Base is a Philippine airbase located in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, making it the EDCA site closest to the Spratly Islands. The base shares a single 2,600-meter (about 1.62 mi) long runway with Puerto Princesa International Airport.
A fact sheet released by U.S. Embassy Manila in March states that the United States has funded approximately $1.8 million for the construction of an ammunition warehouse, fuel storage, and command and control infrastructure, as well as the renovation of a storage warehouse at Antonio Bautista Air Base.
ABS-CBN also reported in May that three EDCA projects had been completed at this base, including an ammunition storage facility completed in 2015 (though this conflicts with other public statements that the HADR warehouse at Basa was the first official EDCA project), an above-ground fuel tank, and a command-and-control fusion center which was used recently in the U.S-Philippines Balikatan joint exercises.
While official EDCA projects at Antonio Bautista Air Base may be relatively modest, the airfield has received significant upgrades to its runway and aircraft storage facilities since 2016.
Runway resurfacing and parking apron expansion at Antonio Bautista Air Base, February 2016
From 2016 to 2017, the entire runway was resurfaced and an expanded area of parking apron was added near base headquarters north of the runway. This area was further expanded with hangars in 2018 and 2019. During the same period, additional buildings were constructed at the east end of the runway, next to the base’s golf course. Paved cement areas at both locations were expanded in 2022 and 2023.
Left: Hangars and expanded parking apron near base headquarters; Right: New buildings and paved areas at the east end of the runway
Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base
Mactan–Benito Ebuen Air Base is a Philippine airbase located on the island of Mactan, Cebu, in the Visayas region of the Philippines. This base was the HADR operations center following Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon on record which struck the Philippines in November 2013. The sole EDCA project announced at Mactan-Benito Ebuen is a 40,000-gallon fuel storage facility for which the United States is investing $2.7 million. On May 19, 2023, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson told reporters that the construction of the facility is scheduled for completion in September or October this year.
Left: 2015; Right: 2018
Aside from fuel storage, however, the base itself has benefitted from several upgrades in recent years to the civilian Mactan-Cebu International Airport, with which the base shares runway facilities. From 2015 to 2018, the construction of a new terminal at the airport brought with it expanded base facilities and parking apron. A new taxiway and parking apron was also added to the southeast of the runway in 2021. And in 2020, work began on a second runway which is expected to be operational in 2023.
Mactan–Benito Ebuen Air Base, August 5, 2023
Lumbia Air Base
Lumbia Air Base is located in the Northern Mindanao region of the Philippines and is the target recipient of $3.7 million in U.S. funding for the construction of a HADR warehouse and improvements to runway lighting. But beyond these modest EDCA projects, satellite imagery shows Lumbia is in the midst of other major improvements to its runway, hangars, and aircraft parking.
Lumbia Air Base, October 25, 2019
In 2017, structures at the southeastern end of the runway were demolished to make way for new hangars that appear to have become operational in 2023. The runway itself was stripped in 2019 and resurfaced by 2021.
Lumbia Air Base, December 29, 2022
In 2021, parking aprons were added to both ends of the runway, and clearing began on long strips of land on either side of the runway where construction remains ongoing.
Parking apron and construction at Lumbia Air Base, December 29, 2022
The Four Additional Sites
On April 3, Philippine and U.S. defense officials identified four new locations where the U.S. military will be given new access under the EDCA: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan.
Balabac Airstrip, May 29, 2023
In 2019, four years prior to its designation as an EDCA site, construction began at Balabac Island on a new Philippine Air Force base. Funded under a partnership between the Philippines’ Department of National Defense and Department of Public Works and Highways, clearing for a 3,000-meter runway at Balabac began in 2020 and construction remains ongoing. The runway is expected to serve both military and civilian aircraft.
On May 18, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino inspected ongoing construction of Balabac Island’s runway as well as warehouse and barracks facilities, and visited Naval Station Narciso del Rosario on the other side of the island, which he said would also be expanded under EDCA. While no “EDCA-related construction’’ has commenced yet at Balabac, the United States is expected to ship in materials and build facilities like hangars and warehouses once the airbase has been completed.
Review of satellite imagery found little in the way of major construction at the other three newly announced sites in recent years. But on May 25, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar stated that 14 projects are already identified to be constructed and funded by the United States at the four new EDCA locations. And in September it was reported that the Philippines is seeking U.S. assistance in building a pier and repairing the airstrip at Camilo Osias Naval Base and constructing a fuel storage facility and a command center at Lal-lo Airport.