- Philippines, US agree to add four locations under EDCA
- The agreement comes amid tensions in the South China Sea over Taiwan
- EDCA allows the US access to Philippine military bases
MANILA, February 2 (Post Bureau) – Amid growing concern over China’s growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and tensions over self-ruled Taiwan, their defense chiefs said on Thursday that the Philippines has told the United States its Extended access to military bases has been provided.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez said at a joint news conference that Washington would be granted access to four more sites under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Austin, who was in the Philippines for talks as Washington seeks to expand its security options in the country as part of efforts to deter any moves by China against self-ruled Taiwan, described Manila’s decision as a “big deal.” As he and his counterpart reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their countries’ alliances.
“Our alliance makes both of our democracies more secure and helps maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Austin, whose visit followed U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the Philippines in November. which included a stop in Palawan in southern China. the ocean
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“We discussed concrete actions to address volatile activities in the waters around the Philippines, including the West Philippine Sea, and we are committed to strengthening our mutual capabilities to counter armed aggression,” Austin said. “
“This is just one 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 EDCA bring to nine the number of military bases the United States will have access to, and Washington announced it is allocating more than $82 million for infrastructure investments at existing sites.
The EDCA allows access, but not permanent presence, to Philippine military bases for joint training, prepositioning of equipment and construction of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing.
Austin and Galvez did not say where the new locations would be. The former Philippine military chief said the United States had requested access to bases on the northern land mass of Luzon and Palawan island, the Philippines’ closest neighbor to Taiwan, 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 chanted anti-American slogans and called for the repeal of the EDCA in protest against the United States maintaining a military presence in the country.
Before meeting his counterpart, Austin met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the presidential palace on Thursday, where he assured the Southeast Asian leader, “we are ready to help you in every way we can”.
Relations between the United States and the Philippines, a former colony, were strained by predecessor Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to China, his famous anti-US rhetoric and threats to downgrade their military ties.
But Marcos has met twice with US President Joe Biden since his landslide election victory last year and reiterated that he cannot see his country’s future without the longtime treaty ally.
Marcos told Austin, “I have always said, it seems to me, the future of the Philippines and for that matter the Asia Pacific will always involve the United States.”
Reporting by Karen Lemma Editing by Ed Davis and Gary Doyle
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