US Gets Military Access to Philippine Bases Close to Taiwan

Tue Apr 04 2023
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ISLAMABAD: The Philippines announced the locations of four new military bases to which the United States (US) will gain access as part of an expanded defence agreement aimed at countering China, according to analysts.

Three of the bases are on the main island of Luzon, near Taiwan, and one is in Palawan province. In recent months, the US has increased its efforts to broaden its Indo-Pacific security options in response to growing concerns about China’s aggressive territorial posturing throughout the region.

The new locations established under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will allow the United States to rotate troops to a total of nine bases throughout the Philippines, including Balabac Island, which is strategically important due to its proximity to Chinese installations in the South China Sea.

“These new locations will boost the interoperability of the US and Philippine Armed Forces and allow us to more effectively respond together to shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including humanitarian and natural disasters,” said Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, during a briefing Monday.

The US Marine Corps also established a new base on Guam, a strategically important United States island east of the Philippines, earlier this year. Camp Blaz is the first new Marine base in 70 years, and it could eventually house 5,000 Marines.

Location of the bases

Despite the fact that the expanded access was revealed in early February, the locations of the bases remained unknown. The four new locations were announced by the allies on Monday as Balabac Island in Palawan, Cagayan province, Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, and Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela. Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. described the four bases as “very strategic,” particularly the naval station in Cagayan and the one on Balabac Island, in a press release.

Northern Luzon Naval Base Camilo Osias is only 500 kilometres (310 miles) from Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s third-largest metropolis, with a population of 2.7 million. Balabac, according to Galvez, is located on critical sea lines of communication in the South China Sea, where Beijing and Manila have competing territorial claims, including over islands where Beijing has constructed military fortifications.

Available in contingencies

Both US and Philippine officials stressed that the four new bases would not have a permanent US military presence, which is prohibited by the EDCA, but would be accessible to US forces in the event of an emergency.

” Singh said during a news conference on Monday that this is about regional readiness.

The news comes as the United States and the Philippines prepare to conduct their largest-ever joint military exercises later this month when an estimated 17,600 soldiers from the two allies will participate in the Balikatan 23 exercises.

Washington and Manila are bound by a mutual defence treaty signed in 1951 that is still in effect, making the US the region’s oldest bilateral treaty alliance.

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