Philippines Announces Four Additional Military Bases Available to U.S. Forces

MANILA: The Philippines announced Monday (April 3) the locations of four additional military bases to be used by US forces. One is near the disputed South China Sea and the other is not far from Taiwan.

Longtime treaty allies agreed in February to expand cooperation in the country’s “strategic area” to counter China’s growing claims to Taiwan’s autonomy and base construction in the South China Sea.

In 2014, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, known as EDCA, US forces gained access to five bases in the Philippines.

Although expanded to nine, locations for four additional bases were put on hold until Monday while the government consulted with local officials.

The president’s press office said in a statement that the four sites had been assessed by the Philippine military and deemed “appropriate and mutually beneficial.”

The base will also be used for humanitarian and relief operations in case of disaster, he added.

US officials have confirmed that the location announced by the palace is a new EDCA site.

Three of these are in the northern Philippines and include a naval base and airport in the province of Cagayan and a military camp in the neighboring province of Isabela, the statement said.

The naval base at Santa Ana in Cagayan Province is about 400 km (250 miles) from Taiwan.

Another location would be on Balabak Island, at the southern tip of the island of Palawan near the South China Sea.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has openly opposed having an EDCA site in his province, fearing it would jeopardize Chinese investment and make him a target in the Taiwanese conflict.

But Acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez recently told reporters that the government had “already made a decision” about the site and that Mamba had agreed to “abide by that decision”.

The agreement would allow U.S. forces to tour bases to store defensive equipment and supplies.

The deal has stalled under former President Rodrigo Duterte, who favored China over its former colonial ruler.

But President Ferdinand Marcos, who succeeded Duterte in June, has adopted a more US-friendly foreign policy and worked to accelerate EDCA implementation.

China has been critical of the agreement, which the Chinese embassy in the Philippines recently said was part of “US efforts to encircle and contain China through a military alliance with China.”

The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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