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South China Sea: US, Philippines to announce new sites under EDCA as soon as possible
The United States and the Philippines are set to announce new military sites as soon as possible under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. This follows Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s authorization to give the US access to four additional military bases in the country amidst growing threats posed by China in the South China Sea.
On Monday, speaking at the Basa Air Base in Manila, US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the defense agreements between the US and the Philippines were “not focused on any particular issue.” Marcos Jr. last month granted Washington access to four additional military bases under the agreement, on top of five existing military bases agreed upon during the 2014 agreement.
Under EDCA, the US would have access to Philippine bases for joint training, prepositioning of military equipment, and building facilities such as runways, fuel storage, and military housing. The agreement does not mean that there would be a permanent US presence.
Manila has yet to publicly reveal which sites the US would be given access to. A former military chief said the US asked for access to military bases in Isabela, Zambales, and Cagayan, which are all on the island of Luzon and face north toward Taiwan, with the island of Palawan in the southwest. Palawan is near the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.
Philippine defense chief Carlito Galvez said in a joint news conference with Kendall that the leaders of the local governments at the potential EDCA sites had supported Manila’s decision to give the US more access to the bases.
“Moving forward, we hope the US will consider more EDCA projects,” said Galvez.
The Philippines is one of the countries angered by China’s increasing assertions of sovereignty over the majority of the South China Sea. An international tribunal in 2016 ruled that Beijing’s so-called “historic” claims over the waters have no basis under international law, which China has since rejected.
Back in February, Marcos Jr. told the country’s military to focus on protecting the Philippines’ territorial integrity following his summoning of the Chinese ambassador to Manila to protest against the Chinese coastguard’s use of a military-grade laser to blind crew members of a Philippine patrol ship in the disputed waters.