OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 9:07 AM PT – Thursday, February 2, 2023
The United States is increasing its military presence in the Philippines as tensions in the area increase.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has agreed to allow U.S. military to station personnel at bases throughout the Philippine islands. This move comes after tensions between China and the island of Taiwan are increasing.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that this new agreement was made to ensure stability throughout the region, and to also increase operating efficiency with regional allies.
The announcement was made by senior leaders at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, Philippines. This will give the U.S. military access to four new bases throughout the country, which will increase personnel number, training, and military resources in the area to act as a deterrent to China.
Austin had said that the Philippines was a very important partner in the area and that the American global policy was to improve their relationship however possible.
“And so from the defense perspective, we will continue to work together with our great partners to build and modernize your capability as well as increase our interoperability. So we are very, very happy to be here once again, and I look forward to a great discussion,” the defense secretary said.
Marcos commented on the tensions and situation in the region, saying that this new agreement will greatly aid them and their allies.
“It is something we can only navigate properly with the help our allies and partners,” he said.
In a joint statement, the U.S. and the Philippines said that several projects at five different Philippine military camps are seeing great progress. U.S. military presence had previously been agreed to by the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)
The Philippine Constitution does not allow foreign militaries to be permanently stationed in the country, but the EDCA pact allows American forces to be indefinitely stationed there in rotating batches throughout designated camps.
“The EDCA is a key pillar of the U.S.-Philippines alliance,” the statement read. “which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between our forces. 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 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.”
Marcos Jr. had taken office in June and made it a priority to negotiate a regional deterrence against China with the leaders of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
On the other hand, China, has taken unofficial claim of waterways which were under territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Although the U.S. has not taken any specific stance in the area over the territorial disputes, officials have said that the U.S. military will defend against any attacks on regional allies.
President Joe Biden had previously said that he will commit to sending troops to Taiwan should China try to enforce its will on the Island militarily.
Washington has also been regularly deploying warships and surveillance aircrafts to the region to promote freedom of navigation and rule of law.
The Philippines is the U.S.’s oldest ally in the region and had previously hosted two of the largest oversea military bases that the U.S. had operated, but they had been shut down in the early 1990s.
Although the U.S. is expanding its military presence in the country, Austin had said that they were not seeking a “permanent” presence on the new bases.