The United States has secured a deal that will expand America’s military presence in the Philippines through access to four more military bases in the Southeast Asian nation.
The move, announced on Feb. 1, will shore up a critical weakness in U.S. defensive preparations for potential hostilities in the region from China’s communist regime.
The agreement is an expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which also supports combined military training and exercises between the two allies. In addition to access to four new military bases in the Philippines, it allows for the completion by the United State of important projects at five others.
“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 Pentagon said in a statement.
“The Philippine–U.S. alliance has stood the test of time and remains ironclad. We look forward to the opportunities these new sites will create to expand our cooperation together.”
Philippines Bases Enhance US Defensive Posture
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the alliance between the two nations is strong and would continue for a long time.
“I have always said that it seems to me that the future of the Philippines and, for that matter, the Asia–Pacific will always have to involve the United States simply because those partnerships are so strong,” Marcos said during a Feb. 1 meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Philippines was a U.S. colony from 1898 to 1946, and its defense was a key factor in driving U.S. military development in the region during the early 20th century. Since 1951, the two nations have maintained a mutual defense treaty, ensuring that they’ll assist one another in a major conflict.
The Philippines’ defense remains a critical priority now, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has increasingly sought to illegally redraw territorial boundaries in the South China Sea and poach from the Philippines’ national fishing waters.
The CCP’s illegal efforts to claim more and more territory in the region have also brought it into conflict with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
“We discussed concrete actions to address destabilizing activities in the waters,” Austin said of his meeting with Marcos. “This is part of our effort to modernize our alliance, and these efforts are especially important as the People’s Republic of China continues to advance its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea.”
A CCP spokesperson condemned the move and said the United States was “selfish” before insisting that the Philippines should instead cooperate with China.
In all, the new bases will help to fill a critical gap in the U.S. defensive posture across the First Island Chain, an archipelago that spans from Japan to Indonesia, the control of which would be vital in a conflict with China.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.