Philippines Grants U.S. Greater Access to Bases Amid China Concerns
2 February 2023 16:25 WIB
TEMPO.CO, Manila - The Philippines has granted the United States expanded access to its military bases, their defense chiefs said on Thursday, Feb. 2, amid mounting concern over China's increasing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and tensions over self-ruled Taiwan.
Washington would be given access to four more locations under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Philippines' Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez said in a joint news conference.
Austin, who was in the Philippines for talks as Washington seeks to extend its security options in the country as part of efforts to deter any move by China against self-ruled Taiwan, described Manila's decision as a "big deal" as he and his counterpart reaffirmed their commitment to bolstering their countries' alliance.
"Our alliance makes both of our democracies more secure and helps uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific," said Austin, whose visit follows U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris's trip to the Philippines in November, which included a stop at Palawan in the South China Sea.
"We discussed concrete actions to address destabilizing activities in the waters surrounding the Philippines, including the West Philippine Sea, and we remain committed to strengthening our mutual capacities to resist armed attack," Austin said.
"That's just part of our efforts 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," he added.
The additional locations under the EDCA bring to nine the number of military bases the United States would have access to, and Washington had announced it was allocating more than $82 million toward infrastructure investments at the existing sites.
The EDCA allows U.S. access to Philippine military bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment, and the building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage, and military housing, but not a permanent presence.
Austin and Galvez did not say where the new locations would be. The former Philippine military chief had said the United States had requested access to bases on the northern land mass of Luzon, the closest part of the Philippines to Taiwan, and on the island of Palawan, facing the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
Outside the military headquarters, dozens of protesters opposed the United States maintaining a military presence in the country chanted anti-U.S. slogans, and called for the EDCA to be scrapped.
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