Philippines to Expand US Army’s Access to Four of its Army Bases in a Bid to Deter China

Last Update: February 02, 2023, 06:51 IST

US President Joe Biden met with the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr.  in New York, New York, US (Image: Reuters)

US President Joe Biden met with the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. in New York, New York, US (Image: Reuters)

Relations between Washington and Manila have deteriorated in recent years, but China’s activities in the South China Sea have brought the former allies closer together once again.

The United States and the Philippines are expected to announce a deal on Thursday that would give US troops access to another four military bases in the Southeast Asian nation, as the longtime allies seek to contain Chinese aggression in the region.

A senior Philippine official told AFP the deal to boost cooperation would be announced during a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and comes as the countries seek to mend ties that have been fractured in recent years.

China’s growing assertiveness over Taiwan and its claims over the disputed South China Sea have given Washington and Manila new impetus to strengthen their partnership.

Given its proximity to Taiwan and its surrounding waters, the Philippines’ cooperation will be crucial in the event of a conflict with China, which a four-star US Air Force general has warned could happen as early as 2025. Is.

“An agreement has been reached to designate four new additional sites,” a Philippine official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said talks were on for a possible fifth base.

The two countries have a decade-old security alliance that includes a mutual defense treaty and a 2014 agreement known as EDCA, which allows US troops to move through five Philippine bases, including those in disputed waters. is included.

It also allows the US military to store defense equipment and supplies at those bases.

The EDCA stalled under former President Rodrigo Duterte, who favored China over his country’s former colonial master, but the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos is eager to expedite its implementation.

Under the EDCA expansion to be unveiled on Thursday, the United States will have access to at least nine military bases in the archipelago.

It has been widely reported that most of the new bases will be on the main island of Luzon, the closest Philippine landmass to Taiwan, where the US already has access to two sites.

The fourth will reportedly be on the western island of Palawan, facing the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, bringing the number of sites there to two.

Prior to the announcement, Austin was scheduled to hold talks with Marcos at the Presidential Palace.

A senior US defense official told reporters on Wednesday that the Philippines was under “day-to-day pressure from (China) in ways that violate international law”.

The United States’ goal, the official said, is to make sure “they have the ability to defend their sovereignty.”

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored a ruling in The Hague that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims on parts of the sea.

China also claims self-governing, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, to be reclaimed one day by force if necessary.

“Given the location of the proposed sites, it seems clear that these sites are in relation to the Taiwan contingency,” said Greg Wyatt of PSA Philippines Consultancy.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)