The Philippines announced on Monday the sites of the four new military bases it is making available to the United States, including one near the disputed South China Sea and another in Taiwan.

These four locations are considered “appropriate and mutually beneficial,” the presidential press office said in a statement.

These bases will also be used for humanitarian operations and disaster response, according to the same source.

In early February, during a visit to the Philippines by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the two countries unveiled an agreement to allow the US military to use four additional bases located “in strategic regions” of this country. from Southeast Asia.

Washington and Manila have been security allies for decades, including through a 2014 defense treaty and pact, known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows U.S. soldiers to to access five Philippine bases but also to store military equipment there.

This number was increased to nine in February but the locations of the four additional bases had not been specified. Talks are continuing for a potential tenth site, a Philippine official told AFP at the time.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has approved the use of three sites in the northern Philippines, namely a naval base and airport in Cagayan province and a military camp in neighboring Isabela province, the statement said.

Santa Ana Naval Base in Cagayan Province is about 400 km from Taiwan.

The fourth site is on the Balabac Archipelago, off the southern tip of Palawan Island (west), close to the South China Sea.

The US Department of Defense confirmed in a press release these four new sites. He also said he would add an amount, although he did not specify the amount, to the “82 million dollars that we have already allocated for infrastructure investments at existing EDCA sites”.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has publicly opposed the presence of such EDCA sites in his province for fear of jeopardizing Chinese investment and becoming a target in a dispute over Taiwan.

But the Philippines’ acting defense chief, Carlito Galvez, recently told reporters that the government has already made up its mind on this and Governor Mamba has agreed to “comply with it”.

Washington is seeking to tighten its ties with Manila, which have been strained in recent years. The previous Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had indeed preferred to turn to China to the detriment of the United States, the former colonial power.

But the new Philippine government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr wants to strengthen its partnership with Washington, pushed by Beijing’s claims with regard to Taiwan and the construction of Chinese bases in the South China Sea.

Some 500 U.S. soldiers are currently based in the Philippines, with more deployed there on joint exercises throughout the year.

China recently criticized this agreement. According to its embassy in the Philippines, this is part of “US attempts to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with that country”. The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment after this latest announcement.

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea and ignores a judgment in The Hague that its claims have no legal basis. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim areas in these waters.

China also considers that the island of Taiwan is part of its territory and that it will have to be recovered one day, if necessary by force.

03/04/2023 16:58:25 – Manila (AFP) – © 2023 AFP