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The United States and the Philippines have reached an agreement to add four military bases in “strategic locations” for use by the U.S. military

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin meets Philippine President Marcos Jr. on February 2023, 2
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin meets Philippine President Marcos Jr. on February 2023, 2

The United States and the Philippines announced Thursday (February 2023, 2) that they will increase the number of Philippine military bases available to the U.S. military from the current five to nine. The announcement did not specify the location of the four new bases but said they were strategically located in the Philippines. This is believed to include Luzon, near Taiwan in the north, and Palawan, near the main islands and waters of the South China Sea sovereignty dispute in the south.

Luzon’s proximity to Taiwan and permission to use the military base there would significantly enhance the U.S. military’s ability to respond to a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, thereby helping to deter Beijing’s use of force against Taiwan.

Palawan is close to major islands and waters where the Philippines and China have sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, and sending troops to Palawan would allow the U.S. military to more effectively help the Philippines respond to China’s growing coercion in that area.

Under the framework of the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the U.S. military currently has access to five Philippine military bases, including troop rotation there, prepositioning and stockpiling weapons and equipment, on the one hand, for the U.S. military to participate in joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises, help the Philippines counterterrorism and provide humanitarian assistance, and on the other hand, for U.S. military operations in the region, including the provision of supplies and other logistical support.

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The Pentagon said in a press release late Tuesday night Washington time that the two countries decided to accelerate the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, announcing the designation of four new military bases for the U.S. military, saying the measure would allow the United States to more quickly support the Philippines in responding to humanitarian and climate-related disasters and respond to other shared challenges.

The statement also said that the United States and the Philippines have largely completed the investment and facility construction of the five Philippine military bases previously promised to be used, and pledged to move quickly to develop the necessary plans and investments for existing and newly designated bases.

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin made the announcement after talks with the Philippine counterpart on Thursday. He also met with Philippine President Marcos Jr. on the same day.

Austin arrived in the Philippines that night after concluding his visit to South Korea on Tuesday and traveled south Wednesday to visit U.S. troops stationed in Philippine barracks.

Roy Galido, commander of the Philippine Mindanao Command, who received his visit, said the U.S. military has helped the Philippines fight terrorism and provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support.

A senior Pentagon official, predicting Secretary Austin’s visit to the Philippines, said there is a significant increase in China’s destabilizing behavior in the region, including increasingly dangerous and frequent air interceptions and the extensive use of maritime militias in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The China Coast Guard’s presence in the South China Sea 1 is stronger than ever, with far more patrols near islands claimed, including the Philippines, which claims sovereignty over more than in previous years, the Asia Maritime Transparency Project, part of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a report released Monday (Jan. 30).

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Since Marcos Jr. became president of the Philippines in June 2022, the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the United States and the Philippines has accelerated. The scale of joint military exercises between the two countries is also growing.

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