Carlito Galvez should be forthright.

Answering journalists’ questions about the four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites, the defense department’s senior undersecretary said the US armed forces would be given access to local military bases in two northern Luzon provinces and Palawan for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

Of course, HADR is also an important aspect of the US presence but it is not the primary objective of Washington in deploying and prepositioning its military forces in the northern Luzon areas as well as in Palawan.

The locations of the military bases betray the real intentions of the prepositioning and deployment of US military personnel, equipment, supplies and spares.

Washington is preparing for any contingency in the Taiwan Straits as Beijing steps up its live military drills around the self-ruled island, which it considers a renegade province.

For China, Taiwan is non-negotiable. Beijing will not allow it to declare independence and separation from the mainland.

For the US, it will defend Taiwan and will not allow China to invade the island similar to what the Russians did in the Ukraine. It is a red line.

However, US troops, planes and ships are too far away from the potential conflict zone. They are deployed to Guam, Japan and South Korea. It needs forward locations near the volatile Taiwan Straits.

The Philippines is the perfect location to preposition US forces to monitor and control areas around Taiwan.

From an air force base in Lal-lo town in Cagayan, US fighters can patrol Taiwan Straits. US warships that are allowed in a naval base in Sta. Ana town, also in Cagayan, can refuel and monitor ship movements in the strategic Bashi and Balintang channels.

In southern Palawan, US forces can also guard an important international trade route from a military base in Balabac island.

Both areas in Cagayan and Palawan are strategic choke points where Chinese warships regularly transit from the South China Sea to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa.

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning regularly passes through these two areas every time it conducts patrol beyond its maritime borders.

Chinese and American submarines also play cat-and-mouse games beneath these important sea lanes of communications where part of the $3 trillion seaborne trade passes every year.

The strategic importance of the four new EDCA sites are beneficial for both the Americans and Filipinos and, perhaps, the rest of the region.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the US presence in these areas. The US can help improve and develop the sites, build more infrastructure, and provide jobs and livelihood to the local communities.

But there could also be social costs as a result of the US presence.

General Galvez chose to highlight the US role in HADR operations. He was probably trying to sell the US role in these EDCA sites to the Filipino public, wary of the potential danger of the country being dragged into a conflict between the US and China over Taiwan.

China, of course, is unhappy. The EDCA sites pose a threat to its own national interests and there could be consequences for the Philippines for allowing the US to use these strategic bases.

In the coming days, weeks or months, the Philippines should expect more Chinese harassment and gray zone tactics in the West Philippine Sea.

There could also be some retaliation in trade by imposing nontariff measures to Philippine exports of mangoes, pineapples, and bananas.

Chances of an unproportional humanitarian crisis looms larger if a war breaks out between the US and China over Taiwan, and the Philippines is dragged into the conflict.

But the US might not be able to assist the country in the humanitarian crisis as it will be too focused on defending Taiwan.

There is also no guarantee the US will help if there are disasters caused by typhoons and earthquakes in northern Luzon as Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba recalled there was no US assistance when wide areas in his province was inundated a year ago.

The government must stop its propaganda about HADR. It must honestly admit that EDCA sites are for the US security interests as well as the Philippines’s external defense posture.

The Philippines has no military equipment to defend its local bases from potential missile strikes or even drone attacks.

It has to rely on the US, which will demonstrate the capability of MIM-104 Patriot missiles in intercepting ballistic missiles attacks during this month’s “Balikatan” drills in northern Luzon.

Last year, the Patriot missiles were first brought to Cagayan for the “Balikatan” exercises. But its capability will be demonstrated this year.

The government, however, must remember, the US is not here to protect the country’s interest. The US troops are here for their own security interests.

The late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., had relied on the US security umbrella during the 1970s and 1980s for external defense.

The US projected power in the region, using its bases to launch attacks during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s.

When the US abandoned its two large overseas bases in Subic and Clark, the country’s weakness was exposed, which China readily exploited by seizing control and occupying Mischief Reef in 1995.

If the country’s security interests run parallel with the US security interests, then Washington will be there. But if the US interests are compromised, it will distance itself and may even abandon the Philippines.

However, the Philippines did not always support the US interests all the way.

When its own interests are at stake, like its relations with Islamic states during the Middle East crisis, the Philippines stayed away.

Libya, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim countries played a role in helping end the Moro National Liberation Front rebellion in the south.

These countries also are hosting millions of Filipino overseas workers and are the main source of petroleum, which runs the country’s economic engines.

Marcos Sr only played the communist card in its bilateral relations with the Americans.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr should learn from the wisdom of his father and balance the country’s relations with the world’s two largest economies and mightiest militaries.

Sliding to one side of the spectrum could be fatal. He should learn from other countries in the region, like Vietnam, on how to deepen and broaden ties with both powers.

And most importantly, the government must not keep its citizens in the dark.

End the propaganda to make the EDCA sites for the US more acceptable to the public.

Stop deceiving and fooling the public about the real intention of the EDCA sites. The people deserve the truth.