Philippines opens five military bases to US army

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DN-ST-93-03490Despite public opposition and the chance of strongly irritating China, the Philippine government agreed to allow the US military to use five army bases on the archipelago where US troops and supplies can be stationed under a new security deal, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The announcement came at strategic talks in Washington D.C. on March 18, where the allies reiterated their opposition to the militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea, where six Asian governments, most excessively China, have competing claims.

The locations of the bases are Antonio Bautista Air Base on western Palawan island, which faces the hotly disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea; Lumbia Air Base on southern Mindanao island; Basa Air Base and Fort Magsaysay, north of the capital Manila; and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base on Cebu.

The US said that movements of personnel and supplies to the base locations would take place “very soon.”

The 10-year EDCA pact was signed by US and Philippine officials in 2014, but it only got the green light this January after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional. It is a key part of the Obama administration effort to reassert US presence in Asia.

The Philippines and the US are already bound by a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.

US troops were forced to withdraw from their bases in the Philippines in 1992 in a dispute over rent. With the onset of EDCA, the Philippines is now shaping up as a major staging base for projecting US naval and air power in the face of China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea.

But US officials say the pact will enable it help train the Philippines’ military but is “not aimed at China.”

The stationing of US troops is a controversial issue in the Philippines. The country hosted two of the largest overseas US military bases until 1991, when the Philippine Senate voted to end their leases. But parts of the public, particularly locals living close to the bases, commonly express opposition to convert military camps and unused airports as launchpads for US forces. Conflicts are also frequently arising from the presence of US army personnel. The latest incident, the 2014 murder of a transgender prostitute by a US navy soldier at the Subic Bay Naval Base, at one time one of the largest US Navy bases outside the US, reignited tensions over US military presence in the Philippines.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Despite public opposition and the chance of strongly irritating China, the Philippine government agreed to allow the US military to use five army bases on the archipelago where US troops and supplies can be stationed under a new security deal, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Reading Time: 2 minutes

DN-ST-93-03490Despite public opposition and the chance of strongly irritating China, the Philippine government agreed to allow the US military to use five army bases on the archipelago where US troops and supplies can be stationed under a new security deal, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The announcement came at strategic talks in Washington D.C. on March 18, where the allies reiterated their opposition to the militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea, where six Asian governments, most excessively China, have competing claims.

The locations of the bases are Antonio Bautista Air Base on western Palawan island, which faces the hotly disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea; Lumbia Air Base on southern Mindanao island; Basa Air Base and Fort Magsaysay, north of the capital Manila; and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base on Cebu.

The US said that movements of personnel and supplies to the base locations would take place “very soon.”

The 10-year EDCA pact was signed by US and Philippine officials in 2014, but it only got the green light this January after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional. It is a key part of the Obama administration effort to reassert US presence in Asia.

The Philippines and the US are already bound by a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.

US troops were forced to withdraw from their bases in the Philippines in 1992 in a dispute over rent. With the onset of EDCA, the Philippines is now shaping up as a major staging base for projecting US naval and air power in the face of China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea.

But US officials say the pact will enable it help train the Philippines’ military but is “not aimed at China.”

The stationing of US troops is a controversial issue in the Philippines. The country hosted two of the largest overseas US military bases until 1991, when the Philippine Senate voted to end their leases. But parts of the public, particularly locals living close to the bases, commonly express opposition to convert military camps and unused airports as launchpads for US forces. Conflicts are also frequently arising from the presence of US army personnel. The latest incident, the 2014 murder of a transgender prostitute by a US navy soldier at the Subic Bay Naval Base, at one time one of the largest US Navy bases outside the US, reignited tensions over US military presence in the Philippines.

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