21 Jan Mayor Oscar Moreno Receiving Turn Downs About His Lumbia Airport Pronouncements
Last weekend, Mayor Oscar Moreno made clear during a media interview that he was open to the idea to allow American military forces the use of the Lumbia Airport under the provisions of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Under the EDCA, the US military is allowed to set up storage facilities and station “forward personnel” to maintain these facilities, but only in places and facilities that are being used by the Philippine Armed Forces. The US military calls these facilities “pre-positioning” areas wherein supplies, ordnance, equipment, and even vehicles or planes can be “pre-positioned” in storage in preparation for a possible conflict.
Naturally, Mayor Moreno caught criticism from so-called “progressive” groups, ultra-leftist groups, and some sectors of society for his alleged “historical amnesia” and for merely parroting the “puppetry” of the Liberal Party towards the United States. Another controversy over Moreno’s pronouncement is that Lumbia Airport is being eyed as a commercial center to be developed in conjunction with developing Lumbia as a commercial area and the future location for the new city hall and other government offices. In fact, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has already filed a House Bill for the conversion of the Lumbia Airport area. Unfortunately, the 547-hectare Lumbia property is owned by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority and Philippine Air Force.
Not many people have analyzed, however, that both Mayor Moreno’s pronouncement and the resistance to it are all being shed under the wrong light. While it is true that under EDCA the US military will be allowed to use the Air Force facilities and airfield at Lumbia under any circumstance, the placing of pre-positioned forward facilities and personnel at Lumbia has no strategic value whatsoever. Military and defense analysts simply point out that all you need to do is to look at the map of the Philippines and the location of Lumbia Airport will tell you that this airport has little value for the US military.
In the present cold war situation with China over the South China Sea, analysts point out that the best areas for pre-positioning would be in Luzon and Palawan. The fact that the former US military bases in Luzon are now being used by the Philippine Armed Forces makes Luzon the more strategically sound places for pre-positioning. Also, in terms of distance, Luzon is nearer in flying and sailing distance than Cagayan de Oro would ever be to the South China Sea. Luzon is also more accessible to the South China Sea whether from the sea or from the air. As a civil aviation airfield, Lumbia Airport has been proven in the past to be a liability in bad weather, and thus, as a military airfield, this same liability remains. This is the biggest reason why the airport was moved to Laguindingan.
A few might argue that Lumbia Airport is nearer in proximity to the Malacca Straits and other major sea lanes in Southeast Asia. But, the cold war situation today with China occupying nearly all of the South China Sea now places the conflict lines within this area since any shipping passing through the Java Sea, Flores Sea, and Celebes Sea will have to pass through the South China Sea.
Going back to the provisions of the EDCA, clearly, the most that the Lumbia PAF Airfield can be is as a way station for any USAF patrol aircraft in need of emergency facilities or refueling. The Philippine Air Force already knows this and needs no pronouncements from any government official or from any sector in society.