US, Philippines Plan to Broaden American Military Presence Amid China Concerns

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
February 2, 2023Asia & Pacific
US, Philippines Plan to Broaden American Military Presence Amid China Concerns
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III (L) talks beside his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez Jr. at a joint press conference in Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, on Feb. 2, 2023. (Joeal Calupitan/Pool/Getty Images)

The United States and the Philippines on Thursday announced plans to bolster the U.S. military presence in the Southeast Asian country as part of efforts to deter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) mounting aggression in the South China Sea, as well as toward Taiwan.

A joint statement posted on the websites of both countries said that the United States will be given access to four more military bases in strategic areas of the Philippines, under an agreement dating back to 2014 called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The agreement comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Manila for talks amid efforts from Washington to expand its security options in the Philippines to deter any move by the CCP against self-ruled Taiwan.

The statement did not specify where the new EDCA sites would be. But the former Philippine military chief, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, said the United States had in October requested access to five bases on the northern land mass of Luzon, the closest part of the Philippines to Taiwan, and on the island of Palawan, facing the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

“The EDCA is a key pillar of the U.S.–Philippines alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between our forces,” the joint statement reads. “Expansion of the EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate modernization of our combined military capabilities.

“The addition of these new EDCA locations will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges.”

The new four locations join five existing EDCA sites, for which the United States has allocated more than $82 million in infrastructure investments, which create new jobs and support the local economies. At these five Philippine military camps, U.S. forces could rotate indefinitely under the EDCA.

The EDCA facilitates the U.S. military’s access to the military bases in the Philippines, which in turn supports combined training, exercises, and coordination between the two nations’ forces.

“Expansion of the EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate modernization of our combined military capabilities,” the two nations said.

Austin told his counterpart, Carlito Galvez, “We stand ready to help you in any way we can.”

He also met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the presidential palace on Thursday before meeting with Galvez. Marcos told Austin that the Philippines’s alliance with the United States is indispensable.

“I have always said, it seems to me, the future of the Philippines and for that matter the Asia Pacific will always have to involve the United States,” Marcos told Austin.

Austin arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday from South Korea. In South Korea, the defense chief said the United States would increase its deployment of advanced weapons such as fighter jets and bombers to the Korean Peninsula to support joint training with South Korean forces, in response to North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.

Previously U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines for three days in November 2022, which included a stop on Palawan. There, Harris said Washington would stand by the Philippines in the face of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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