US military personnel will have expanded access to military bases in the Philippines


The US military will gain access to four more bases in the Philippines under an agreement announced when US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Manila on Thursday.

In addition, the two allies said projects at five bases already covered by the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) were nearing completion.

The EDCA allows the US to rotate troops to specific bases and build facilities for both countries to use.

“The EDCA is an important pillar of the US-Philippine alliance, supporting combined training, exercises and interoperability between our armed forces. Expanding the EDCA will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate the modernization of our combined military capabilities,” a joint announcement said.

The announcement did not give the location of the bases to which the US military will have new access.

It said only that the new locations will “enable faster support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines and respond to other shared challenges,” without specifying what those challenges are.

The five installations formerly covered by the EDCA were Cesar Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, Lumbia Air Base, Antonio Bautista Air Base, and Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base.

Several US defense officials told CNN earlier this week that Washington was seeking to expand its access to bases in the Philippines in the face of China, as part of an ongoing shift in military forces in the Indo-Pacific region.

Washington has made aggressive deals in the Indo-Pacific, including announcing just a day earlier plans to share defense technologies with India, and plans earlier this month to deploy new US naval units to Japanese islands.

And last week, the Marine Corps officially opened a new base on Guam, a strategically important U.S. island east of the Philippines. Camp Blaz is the first new naval base in 70 years and is expected to house 5,000 marines one day.

Increased access to military bases in the Philippines would give US forces a strategic base on the southeastern edge of the South China Sea, just 200 miles south of Taiwan, the democratically governed island of 24 million that the Chinese Communist Party claims as part of its sovereign power. territory even though it has never been controlled.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refused to rule out the use of military force to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control, but the Biden administration has been steadfast in its support for the island, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act, under which Washington agrees to supply the island with the means to defend itself without committing US troops.

Beijing also claims much of the disputed South China Sea as its territory.

The US has steadfastly called on the Chinese government to abide by its obligations under international law and to stop its “provocative behavior” in the South China Sea.

A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague outright rejected China’s claims to the South China Sea, while making it clear that Beijing was encroaching on Philippine sovereignty through activities such as building islands in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Manila.

Beijing has rejected the tribunal’s verdict and has continued to build and militarily strengthen its positions in the South China Sea. It alleges that the US and other countries are increasing tensions in the region by sending their warships there in violation of the area’s sovereignty.

In November, US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines to meet with recently elected President Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. to discuss expanding access to the US base. , reversing the trend under the previous president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Washington and Manila are bound by a mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 that remains in effect, making it the oldest bilateral treaty alliance in the region for the United States.

In addition to expanding the EDCA, the US is helping the Philippines modernize its military and has included the country as a pilot country in a maritime domain awareness initiative. The two countries also recently agreed to hold more than 500 activities together throughout the year.

Earlier this month, the Philippines announced that 16,000 Philippine and US troops would participate in the annual Balikatan exercise, which will take place April 24-27.

That exercise includes “a live fire exercise to test the United States and Philippines’ newly acquired weapons system,” according to an announcement from the state-run Philippine News Agency.

Formal American ties to the Philippines date back to 1898, when Madrid, as part of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish–American War, ceded control of its colony in the Philippines to the US.

The Philippines remained a US territory until July 4, 1946, when Washington made it independent – but a US military presence remained in the archipelago nation.

The country was home to two of the US military’s largest overseas installations, Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station, which supported the US war effort in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Both bases were transferred to Philippine control in the 1990s, after a 1947 military base agreement between Washington and Manila expired.

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