Manila is central to Washington’s plans to deter China, as of its five allies in the Indo-Pacific, it is the closest to Taiwan.
The US Armed Forces will be able to access four military bases on Philippine territory under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two nations. This was announced this Wednesday by the Department of Defense of the North American country in the midst of the visit of the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, to Manila.
“EDCA is a key pillar of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between our forces,” the statement read. “The expansion of the EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and accelerate the modernization of our combined military capabilities,” he adds.
The US authorities did not specify the location of the announced facilities, but stressed that these “will allow faster support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, as well as respond to other joint challenges“, which were not specified.
The allies have been discussing US access to four additional bases north of the Philippine island of Luzon — the closest part to Taiwan, just 200 kilometers away — as well as another on the island of Palawan, opposite to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, collects Reuters.
In addition, Washington reported that the implementation of five bases previously contemplated in the agreement, signed in 2014, is almost complete and that, in order to put them into operation, the US had allocated more than 82 million dollars.
Manila is central to Washington’s plans to deter and respond to any possible Beijing attack on Taipeisince of its five allies in the Indo-Pacific, which also include Australia, South Korea, Japan and Thailand, the Philippines is the closest nation to Taiwan, the outlet added.
On the other hand, the Philippines is one of the countries that has disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea over the constant presence of ships in its exclusive economic zone that, according to it, are manned by Chinese militiamen.
The EDCA allows the US Army access to Philippine bases for joint training activities, team positioning, and construction of facilities such as airstrips, fuel storage, and housing, but does not imply a permanent military presencedetails Reuters.
A day before the extension of the agreement was announced, a senior Philippine official said that increased US access to its military bases should benefit both countries.
“We don’t want it to be used solely by the United States for its defense capabilities. […] must be mutually beneficial“he declared. “And obviously we want to make sure that no country sees […] what we are doing […] like something directed towards a conflict or something like that,” he added.