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Philippines gives US access to strategic military bases

April 3, 2023

The Philippines' government has identified four more military bases that the US could access. Two locations are close to Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea islands.

A US soldier guides his Filipino counterpart during a joint military drill called Salaknib at Laur, Nueva Ecija province, northern Philippines
US troops return to the Philippines every year for joint military exercisesImage: Aaron Favila/AP Photo/picture alliance

Despite opposition from China, the Philippines on Monday announced the location of four additional bases that United States military forces could access in the Southeast Asian nation.

US Forces already had access to five military bases under a 2014 defense cooperation agreement.

Philippine's defense chief Carlito Galvez called the sites "very strategic."

Three of the sites are in the northern Philippines, including a naval base at Cagayan's Santa Ana, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Taiwan. Another is an air base on Balabac Island, off the southern tip of Palawan Island, near the South China Sea.

Local leaders worried about potential US-China clash

The decision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to expand the US access under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was made in February.

However, the site announcement was delayed by opposition from some local government leaders concerned about being caught up in a future conflict between the US and China.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has publicly opposed the deployment in his province for fear of jeopardizing Chinese investment and becoming a target in a potential conflict over Taiwan.

The agreement allows US troops to rotate through the bases and store military equipment and supplies but not necessarily be permanently based there. 

Marcos' office said the four locations should also "boost the disaster response" and help humanitarian and relief operations.

China angered by expanded US military presence

Philippine officials said a Chinese Foreign Ministry delegation expressed strong opposition to an expanded US military presence during a meeting last month.

The delegation also warned of its repercussions to regional peace.

China's Embassy in Manila separately denounced the move as part of "US efforts to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with this country."

The US military has committed more than $80 million worth of infrastructure development at the five existing sites and said it would add to that figure to improve the new sites.

lo/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)