- Four new sites, on top of five existing ones, will allow US to rotate troops and build and operate facilities; China opposes expanded US presence
- President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr said the bases are for defence, with Philippines giving US ‘the chance to be able to come and help us in any way’
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr said the four new sites that the US can access under an expanded defence agreement are intended to bolster the Southeast Asian nation’s capability to defend its territory, and not for any offensive moves.
“We will not allow our military bases to be used for any offensive action,” Marcos said on Monday ahead of the start of the two allies’ annual joint military exercises. “It is only meant to help the Philippines, when the Philippines is in need of help,” he said, according to a statement from his communications office.
The president last week identified the additional sites, namely a naval base and an airport in Cagayan province and a military camp in Isabela province – all near Taiwan – and Balabac Island in Palawan province near the South China Sea. China said the move would only lead to more tension and less peace and stability in the region.
“What we’re simply doing is continuing to strengthen defence of our territory, defence of the republic,” he said, adding the Philippines is only giving its ally, the US, “the chance to be able to come and help us in any way”.
The government in February granted US troops access to four more Philippine military camps on top of five existing locations under the nations’ Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. The pact, signed in 2014, allows the US to rotate its troops for prolonged stays as well as build and operate facilities on those bases in the Southeast Asian country.
Marcos’s comments come ahead of the start of the largest-ever military exercises between Philippine and American troops on Tuesday, which run until April 28.
Some 12,000 US forces are expected to be deployed in various parts of the country during the drills while 5,000 Filipino troops will participate, said Philippine military spokesman Medel Aguilar. Around 111 members of the Australian defence force will also join along with observers from 12 countries, he added.