US Eyeing Access to Additional Military Bases in Philippines

US Eyeing Access to Additional Military Bases in Philippines - Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said they have "made recommendations" to senior leaders about expanding EDCA sites.

US Eyeing Access to Additional Military Bases in Philippines

US Eyeing Access to Additional Military Bases in Philippines

The United States is considering gaining access to more military bases in the Philippines under the countries' Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a U.S. commander said on Thursday.

Adm. John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said that he and Philippine military chief Romeo Brawner have "made recommendations" to their senior leaders about expanding EDCA sites.

"We are in discussions, but everyone has a boss, and we both have bosses. We'll have those conversations I think in private and give our bosses some decision space on how they'd like to go forward," he said, according to the Philippine News Agency.

Adm. Aquilino, who was in Manila for an annual meeting on bilateral defense cooperation, also said the allies were seeking to complete an agreement to boost intelligence sharing.

The two countries struck a deal earlier this year to grant American forces access to four new military bases in the Philippines on top of the five bases already under the EDCA.

Three of the four new sites are situated close to Taiwan, while one is located near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where the Philippines and China recently sparred over a disputed atoll.

The United States is planning to invest about $110 million in those nine sites to bolster the Philippine forces' capability and provide U.S. forces with the infrastructure needed when invited, Adm. Aquilino said.

Mr. Brawner said the Philippine government is also allocating its own resources to develop those sites.

"It signifies our commitment to further strengthen our cooperation, ensuring that both militaries are prepared and well-equipped to respond to evolving security challenges and humanitarian crises," he added.

Beijing had warned that expanded EDCA sites would "seriously endanger regional peace and stability" and "drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development."

Chinese Ships Swarm Around Philippine Waters

The Philippines is concerned about Beijing's encroachment on territories it claims in the South China Sea and the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) military drills surrounding Taiwan, with which it shares a sea border off the Luzon Strait.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said last week that four Chinese coast guard ships and four maritime militia vessels swarmed around its ships in Ayungin Shoal (also known as the Second Thomas Shoal) on Sept. 8.
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A member of the Philippines Coast Guard uses binoculars to check on a China Coast Guard vessel, during a resupply mission for troops stationed at a grounded Philippines ship, in the South China Sea, on Sept. 8, 2023. (Jay Ereno/Reuters)
A member of the Philippines Coast Guard uses binoculars to check on a China Coast Guard vessel, during a resupply mission for troops stationed at a grounded Philippines ship, in the South China Sea, on Sept. 8, 2023. (Jay Ereno/Reuters)
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The Chinese ships conducted "dangerous maneuvers" while the PCG ships were escorting boats on a resupply mission to a troop station, jeopardizing the safety of crew members, the PCG stated.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he was concerned about China's "illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing," as well as "the militarization of reclaimed features in the South China Sea."

“We must oppose the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea,” he was quoted as saying by the PCG on Sept. 9.

China's "standard" national map now features a "10-dash line" instead of the previous nine dashes used to stake claims on the disputed waters, with an additional dash to the east of self-ruled democratic Taiwan.

Five neighboring countries, including the Philippines, have objected and said that it overlaps with their respective territorial claims. Taiwan also rejected the map and affirmed that it isn't a part of China.

Beijing claims much of the South China Sea as its own territory. In 2016, the Hague Tribunal sided with the Philippines in its territorial disputes over the South China Sea, but the CCP refused to recognize the ruling.

Reuters contributed to this report.