The Philippine leader said on March 22 that four new military bases targeted to host U.S. troops would be “scattered” around the nation, specifically focusing on reinforcing defense along the country’s eastern coast.

Speaking to reporters, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines and the United States have already identified and agreed on the new sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

“So there are four extra sites scattered around the Philippines. There are some in the North, there are some around Palawan, there are some further South,” Marcos was quoted as saying by a state-run news agency.

The locations of the new bases would be announced soon, Marcos said, adding that the Philippines’ continental shelf on the eastern side of Luzon is also being considered a potential site.

Marcos said the new military bases aim to bolster the country’s eastern coast defense.

Palawan Island lies along the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing asserts its territorial claim over nearly all of the waters based on its so-called nine-dash line.

On the other hand, Luzon Island is the closest Philippine island to Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.

Marcos’s remarks followed an agreement with the United States last month to grant American forces access to four new military bases in the Philippines on top of the five bases already granted under the EDCA.

Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez has said the EDCA projects are meant to boost defense capabilities against external threats, citing the increasingly “precarious” geopolitical situation.

“We are not preparing for war; rather, we are aiming to develop our defense capabilities against eventualities and threats to our security,” Galvez said on March 2.

US, Philippines Condemn Beijing’s ‘Gray-Zone Activities’

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Galvez had a phone conversation on March 20 to discuss ongoing efforts to strengthen their alliance, in which they welcomed the recent groundbreaking ceremony for a $24 million runway rehabilitation project at a Philippine military base.

According to the U.S. Defense Department, the two leaders discussed plans to conduct joint maritime activities in the South China Sea and agreed to review the full range of U.S.-Philippine maritime cooperation during the upcoming 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.

They condemned Beijing’s “gray-zone activities,” which interfere with the livelihoods of local Philippine communities and the rights of other claimant states, and the massing of over 40 Chinese vessels near a Philippine-occupied island earlier this month.

Austin reaffirmed the U.S. “unwavering alliance commitment” to the Philippines and said that a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty “extends to Philippine armed forces, aircraft, and public vessels, including those of its coast guard, anywhere in the South China Sea.”

Largest-Ever Joint Drill

The United States and the Philippines will stage their largest joint military exercise next month, with over 17,000 troops participating, amid growing concerns over Beijing’s increased military assertiveness in the region.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. marines participate in a joint amphibious assault exercise as part of the annual ‘Balikatan’ (shoulder-to-shoulder) U.S.-Philippines war exercises, off the waters of South China Sea in Claveria, Cagayan province, Philippines, on March 31, 2022. (Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

The annual Balikatan drill will take place on April 11–28 in Northern Luzon, Palawan, and Antique, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Balikatan spokesperson Col. Michael Logico said last week.

Logico said the upcoming Balikatan drill “is officially the largest” to date, as it will involve about 17,600 troops from both sides, including 12,000 American troops and several hundred soldiers from Australia.

The drill aims to bolster the U.S.-Philippines maritime defense and will include live-fire exercises in water for the first time, he added. Australian troops will take part in smaller land-based exercises.

“We have the absolute, inalienable right to defend our territory,” Logico was quoted as saying by CNN Philippines. “We are here to practice. We are here to show that we are combat-ready.”



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