A fact-finding mission (FFM) organized and conducted by progressive groups from the United States said in their report that communities around US military bases or so-called EDCA sites suffer from widespread negligence, disinformation and repression. 

EDCA, short for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), is an agreement between the government of the US and the Philippines signed in 2014 that allows the US to build bases or facilities within an “agreed location” inside Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) camps. The US has at least nine facilities under the EDCA and at least eight other bases or military facilities in various parts of the Philippines. 

The FFM bared their findings on June 12 after conducting a three-week investigation in communities around such US military bases in Cagayan Valley, at former US military bases in Central Luzon, in Ilocos Norte, where the most recent Balikatan exercise took place, and in Marawi City, where a military camp is being built at “ground zero” using EDCA funds.

The delegation’s findings include: 

  1. Violations of EDCA provisions such as in Cagayan Valley, wherein residents near the military base were ordered to store supplies outside of the designated “EDCA site,” in violation of the agreement which prohibits it. The residents were also not informed of the purpose of the storage. They suspect weapons are being stored, contrary to US and AFP claims that the items are only for “humanitarian aid.”
  2. US military exploitation of communities and their resources: In Cagayan Valley, American troops hired fisherfolk’s boats for the war games. In Ilocos Norte, residents were prohibited from sailing and were deprived of their livelihood. The indemnification given to them were grossly insufficient.
  3. Close partnership with private economic interests and the military: In Cagayan Valley, the delegation learned of the US’s plan to build “EDCA sites” near special economic zones. Two of the existing bases are adjacent to the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
  4. No communication whatsoever to communities affected by the military exercises. In Santa Ana, Cagayan, for instance, residents were given no explanation regarding the US-PH military exercises, before and after they happened. They were kept in the dark, and their voices and welfare were not considered. Since November 2023, two low-flying US helicopters caused panic among indigenous communities on the island of Palaui. They worried about the possibility of war breaking out and their children’s safety.
  5. Disinformation and discrepancies in government reports: In Marawi City, community leaders are aware of the construction of a military base using EDCA funds at “ground zero,” which the government has not disclosed. They also reported the plan to build a special economic zone in the said area. In Ilocos Norte, the government did not inform communities that would be affected by the Balikatan exercises. Residents also reported being startled from loud explosions that shook their houses.
  6. State repression and red-tagging: Red-tagging by Philippine state forces was widespread against residents who reported militarization, especially those who expressed the need for economic development in the communities.
  7. Government negligence: In Marawi City, residents affected by the 2017 AFP attack remain in evacuation centers. Basic utilities such as electricity, water, and sanitation are absent or damaged in these areas. Many of them have not received compensation or assistance nor any assurance of being able to return to their lands.

“We demand answers and accountability from the Philippine and US governments on the impacts of militarism on the most marginalized. We demand answers on the real extent of US base and facility building in the country, as what is being publicized in the news doesn’t match experiences on the ground”, a FFM representative declared.

The progressive groups led by BAYAN-USA also said they plan to continue campaigning against increasing U.S. militarism in the Philippines, at the Cancel Rim of the Pacific Games (RIMPAC) people’s summit and mobilization in San Diego, California (June 29-30), at the Resist NATO summit and mobilization in Washington DC (July 6-7), and launching protest actions at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer, within the halls of Congress against the Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act (PERA) and in favor of the Philippine Human Rights Act, and at Marcos Jr.s' state of the nation address (SONA) in July.