Marcos: New bases agreed to with Americans have been identified

Aie Balagtas See
Marcos: New bases agreed to with Americans have been identified Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (center) walks beside Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (right) and Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (left) during rites at the 126th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army, at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, Philippines, March 22, 2023.
Aaron Favila/AP Photo

Four bases where U.S. troops will get access under an expanded defense pact have been identified and are “scattered around the Philippines,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday, without revealing their names and exact locations.

While speaking to reporters on the sidelines of festivities for the 126th anniversary of the Philippine Army’s founding, Marcos said that a formal announcement publicizing the bases’ names was expected soon.

“We’ll make a formal announcement. But yes they have been identified … (but) before I announce it, we will formalize it with our partners in the United States so we will not preempt the plans,” he said. 

“There are four extra sites scattered around the Philippines. There are some in the north, there are some around Palawan and there are some further south.”

Last month, the Philippine commander-in-chief agreed to give the Americans access to the four yet to be disclosed sites. Those would be on top of five known Philippine bases stipulated under Manila’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Washington.

Manila’s decision in early February to agree to giving the American military greater access to local bases came amid heightened tensions with China in the contested South China Sea and fears of a potential invasion of Taiwan by Beijing, which considers the island a renegade province.

Signed in 2014, the EDCA allows the U.S. military to preposition equipment and refurbish facilities that American forces would need here. But it does not allow permanent American basing in the country. The EDCA supplemented the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides legal cover for large-scale joint military drills in the Philippines between the two long-time allies.

On Monday, Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, reaffirmed the two nations’ “unwavering alliance commitment” to a decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty, which binds them to one another in case of an attack by a foreign power. 

Philippine and U.S. officials have not said whether the United States would use the bases in helping defend Taiwan if war broke out across the Taiwan Strait, and have instead said that the facilities would be used to allow American troops to respond more quickly to humanitarian crises in the region.   

A helicopter lands on the USS Wasp during the annual Balikatan joint training exercise in the western Philippine province of Zambales, April 11, 2019. [Jay Rey/BenarNews]

However, given that the U.S. has said it was prepared to aid Taiwan in case China attacked the island, many experts here have said that the Philippines would be unnecessarily drawn into a conflict.

The governor of a province in the north – Cagayan, which faces Taiwan – said recently he believed that the area has been chosen as a location under the expanded EDCA. Appearing before the Senate early this month, Gov. Manuel Mamba said that officials should not “ram into our throats what is not acceptable to us.”

On Wednesday, Marcos said that he had met with officials from the four sites and explained to them why their regions were chosen.

“Yes, we explained to them why it was important that we have that and why it will actually be good for their province,” Marcos said.

“And it appears they understood the explanation because … those who had interposed some objections, they have come around to support the idea of an EDCA site in their province,” he added.

Marcos’ comment came before Filipino and American troops are scheduled to hold their largest-ever military war games next month, called Balikatan. 

It also coincided with the visit in Manila this week of the USS America, a warship whose commander said it was prepared to aid joint patrols in disputed waters if both nations agreed to it.

“If America is tasked to conduct any type of patrol anywhere in the world then we would be ready for that,” the America’s commanding officer, Capt. Shockey Snyder, told reporters invited aboard the ship on Tuesday.


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