MANILA (Agencies): The Philippines is expected to work on dozens of projects this year to upgrade military bases as part of an agreement with the United States.
Signed in 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement allows the U.S. to allocate funding to improve and construct facilities within existing Philippine military bases as well as to deploy American troops on a rotational basis.
For example, the Philippine government has proposed airstrip repairs for this year at Naval Base Camilo Osias, on the northern tip of the country’s island of Luzon, as part of the upgrade plans financed by the United States.
And some 42 miles southwest of the base, at Lal-Lo Airport, also in Cagayan province, the government is considering construction of a fuel storage facility and a command center.
The two countries identified five bases for the EDCA initiative in 2014, then added another four bases, including the two in Cagayan, in 2023. Notably, several of the newly accessible bases abut the South China Sea to the north.
China has decried some of the EDCA’s base locations due to their proximity to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province and has threatened to take back by force. Although the U.S. officially does not support Taiwan’s independence, Washington does provide it with weaponry, and U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“Whereas the U.S. claims that such cooperation is intended to help the disaster relief efforts of the Philippines and some Americans even tout the EDCA sites as [a] driver of [the] local economy, it is plain and simple that those moves are part of the U.S. efforts to [encircle] and contain China through its military alliance,” the Chinese government said in March. “To bundle the Philippines into the chariots of geopolitical strife will seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability.”
There’s also been local opposition. In 2022, provincial Gov. Manuel Mamba openly opposed the live-fire Balikatan exercise in the area, warning it could “anger” China and “bring war closer to the Philippines.”