American lawmakers have coalesced around an exceedingly bellicose outlook toward Beijing.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said during a media briefing at the Pentagon, April 3, 2023, that the United States plans to expand military bases in the Philippines and open four new sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
The four new sites are Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, said Singh, who briefed the media today.
The locations already in the agreement are Cesar Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, Lumbia Air Base, Antonio Bautista Air Base and Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base.
“In addition to the five existing sites, these new locations will strengthen the interoperability of the United States and Philippine armed forces and allow us to respond more seamlessly together to address a range of shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including natural and humanitarian disasters,” Singh said.
The sites will also provide excellent places for joint and combined training and will improve regional readiness, she said, adding that U.S. forces at these sites will be rotational forces.
Tensions between the US and China are high over fears that Beijing will seek to take control of Taiwan in the coming years.
The U.S. claims China has also angered its regional neighbors with aggressive efforts to assert control over the South China Sea, which is crucial to global trade.
The Philippines is near the Spratly Islands, a major archipelago in the disputed South China Sea.
America’s new bases in the Philippines will provide a major boost to the U.S. presence in the region, as part of efforts to neutralize China’s influence.
Beijing has reacted angrily to the expansion of the U.S. military in the Philippines.
A spokesperson for China’s embassy in the Philippines said the agreement will “seriously endanger regional peace and stability and drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development.”
“Creating economic opportunities and jobs through military cooperation is tantamount to quenching thirst with poison and gouging flesh to heal wounds,” the spokesperson said after U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland traveled to the Philippines last month.
Washington already operates five military bases in the Philippines on a rotational basis, meaning they cannot station troops there permanently.
Those camps are located near Manila and in the south and east of the Philippines — but none were in the northern Luzon province, which is more strategically located.
The U.S. reached an agreement for the bases with the Philippines in 2014.
The Defense Department “will work in lockstep” with the Philippine Department of National Defense and armed forces to rapidly pursue modernization projects at these locations, she said.
“The United States and the Philippines have stood together for more than seven decades, unwavering in treaty commitments and our shared vision for a more peaceful, secure and prosperous region,” she added.
According to a statement from the State Department today, “U.S.-Philippine relations are based on strong historical and cultural linkages and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights. The 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty provides a strong foundation for our robust post-World War II security partnership. Strong people-to-people ties, and economic cooperation provide additional avenues to engage on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues.”