The US military will have access to four more bases in the Philippines under an agreement announced when US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Manila this Thursday (2).
In addition, the two allies said that projects at five bases already covered by the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) were nearing completion.
EDCA allows the US to rotate troops to specific bases and build facilities for use by both countries.
“EDCA is a key pillar of the US-Philippines alliance, which supports joint training, exercises, and interoperability among our forces. Expanding EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient and accelerate the modernization of our joint military capabilities,” said a joint announcement.
The announcement did not give the location of the bases to which the US military will have new access.
He said only that the new locations “will enable faster support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines and respond to other shared challenges”, without specifying what those challenges are.
Several US defense officials told the CNN earlier this week that Washington was looking to expand its access to bases in the Philippines with an eye on China, as part of an ongoing shift in force posture in the Indo-Pacific region.
Washington has aggressively struck deals in the Indo-Pacific, including announcing a day ahead of plans to share defense technologies with India, and earlier this month it plans to deploy new US Navy units to the Japanese home islands.
And just last week, the Marine Corps officially opened a new base on Guam, a strategically important American island east of the Philippines.
Camp Blaz is the Navy’s first new base in 70 years and is expected to one day host 5,000 Marines..
Increased access to military bases in the Philippines would give the US military a strategic base on the southeastern edge of the South China Sea, just 200 miles south of Taiwan, the democratically governed island of 24 million people that the Chinese Communist Party claims territory as part of its government despite never having controlled it.
Movements to fight China
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refused to rule out using military force to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control, but the Biden administration has been steadfast in its support for the island, as provided for in the Taiwan Relations Act, under which Washington agrees to provide the island with the means to defend itself without compromising US troops.
Beijing also claims much of the disputed South China Sea as its territory.
The US has been steadfast in calling on the Chinese government to fulfill its obligations under international law and cease its “provocative behavior” in the South China Sea.
A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejected China’s claims to the South China Sea, making it clear that Beijing was infringing Philippine sovereignty through activities such as building islands in Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Beijing dismissed the court’s decision and continued to build and militarily reinforce its positions in the South China Sea. He claims that the US and other countries are increasing tensions in the region by sending their warships there, violating its sovereignty.
In November, US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines to discuss expanding access to the US base with newly elected US President Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr.
Some experts said his visit sent an unequivocal message to Beijing that the Philippines is moving closer to the US, reversing the trend of the previous president, Rodrigo Duterte .
Washington and Manila are bound by a mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 that remains in force, making it the oldest bilateral treaty alliance in the region for the United States.
In addition to expanding EDCA, the US is helping the Philippines modernize its military and has included it as a pilot country in a maritime domain awareness initiative.
The two countries also recently agreed to hold more than 500 activities together throughout the year.
Earlier this month, the Philippines announced that 16,000 Filipino and American troops would participate in the annual Balikatan exercise, which is expected to take place from April 24-27. That exercise will include “a live-fire exercise to test the newly acquired weapons system from the United States and the Philippines,” an announcement by the Philippine state news agency said.
Philippines was once a territory of the United States
Formal US ties to the Philippines date back to 1898 when, as part of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War, Madrid ceded control of its Philippine colony to the US.
The Philippines remained a US territory until July 4, 1946, when Washington granted it independence – but the US military presence remained in the archipelago nation.
The country used to be home to two of the largest overseas US military installations, Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station, which supported the US war effort in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 70s.
Both bases were transferred to Philippine control in the 1990s after a 1947 military base agreement between Washington and Manila expired.
Source: CNN Brasil
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