US, Philippines plan to expand US military presence amid China concerns

The United States and the Philippines on Thursday announced plans to boost the U.S. military presence in the Southeast Asian nation as part of efforts to deter Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aggression into the South China Sea and Taiwan.

Under a deal called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which dates back to 2014, the United States has granted access to four more military bases in strategic areas of the Philippines, according to a joint statement posted on the two countries’ websites. be done.

The deal comes as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Manila for talks as Washington seeks to expand its security options in the Philippines to deter any moves by the Communist Party against sovereign Taiwan. sometimes done.

The statement did not specify where the new EDCA site would be located. But former Philippine military commander Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacalo said in his October the United States requested access from the Philippines to the land in northern Luzon, the closest to Taiwan, and his five bases in Palawan. said. It faces the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

“EDCA is a key pillar of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, supporting a combination of training, exercises, and interoperability between U.S. forces,” the joint statement said. “The expansion of EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate the modernization of our combined military capabilities.

“The addition of these new EDCA sites will allow us to respond more quickly to humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, as well as meet other common challenges.”

The four new locations join five existing EDCA sites that the United States has allocated for more than $82 million in infrastructure investment, creating new jobs and supporting the local economy. At these five Philippine military camps, US troops could rotate indefinitely under her EDCA.

EDCA facilitates US military access to military bases in the Philippines, supporting a combination of training, exercises and coordination between the militaries of both countries.

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

“I’m ready to help you in any way I can,” Austin told his counterpart Carlito Galvez.

He also met with Galvez after meeting with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the presidential palace on Thursday. Marcos told Austin that the Philippines’ alliance with the United States was essential.

“I always say that the future of the Philippines, and for that matter the Asia-Pacific region, always needs to involve the United States,” Marcos told Austin.

Austin arrived in the Philippines from South Korea on Tuesday. In South Korea, the Secretary of Defense has urged the United States to deploy advanced weapons, such as fighters and bombers, to the Korean Peninsula to support joint exercises with South Korean forces in response to North Korea’s growing nuclear threat. said to increase.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the Philippines for three days in November 2022, with a stop in Palawan. There Harris said Washington supports the Philippines in the face of threats and coercion in the South China Sea.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.