US, Philippines agree on larger American military presence
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The United States and the Philippines on Thursday announced an agreement to expand America’s military presence in the Southeast Asian country where the US resides
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The United States and the Philippines on Thursday announced an agreement to expand America’s military presence in the Southeast Asian country, where U.S. forces would be granted access to four more Philippine military camps, effectively giving them new capabilities for Ramps would give a deterrent to China’s increasingly aggressive stance on Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.
The agreement between the long-standing 2014 defense pact partners was made public during Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit.
The allied nations also said in a joint statement that “significant” progress was being made on projects at five Philippine military camps to which U.S. service members were previously granted access by Philippine officials under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The construction of American facilities is currently underway.
Austin met briefly with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has taken steps to foster closer ties with Washington since taking office in June, and later met with his Filipino counterpart Carlito Galvez Jr. about Washington’s plan to expand its military presence in the USA expand country.
“EDCA is an important pillar of the US-Philippines alliance that supports combined training, exercises and interoperability between our armed forces,” the US and Philippines said.
Allies said “the addition of these new EDCA sites will enable faster support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines and respond to other shared challenges.”
No details were initially given about the agreement, including the location of the four Philippine camps where US forces would be allowed to set up barracks, warehouses and hangars, but Philippine military and defense officials said in November the US had agreed to gain access to five more local military camps are mainly located in the northern Philippine region of Luzon.
Two of the additional camps the US wanted access to are near the northern tip of mainland Luzon, across a maritime border from Taiwan, the Taiwan Strait and southern China. Other local camps that would house American forces lie along the country’s west coast, facing the disputed South China Sea.
China and the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, are locked in increasingly tense territorial disputes over the busy and resource-rich South China Sea. Washington makes no claims in the strategic waters but has used its warships and fighter and surveillance planes on patrols it says promote freedom of navigation and the rule of law but have infuriated Beijing.
“The Philippine-US alliance has stood the test of time and remains steadfast,” the allies said in their statement. “We look forward to the opportunities these new locations will create to expand our collaboration.”
The Philippines, Washington’s oldest Asian treaty, was once home to two of the largest US Navy and Air Force bases outside of mainland America. The bases closed in the early 1990s after the Philippine Senate rejected an extension, but American forces returned for large-scale combat exercises with Filipino troops under a 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and the EDCA pact.
The Philippine constitution prohibits the permanent deployment of foreign troops and their involvement in local fighting. The EDCA Defense Pact allows American forces to remain in rotating batches in designated Philippine camps with their defense equipment, excluding nuclear weapons, indefinitely.
Jim Gomez, The Associated Press