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Home » Philippines says expanded US access to military bases not ‘preparation for war’

Philippines says expanded US access to military bases not ‘preparation for war’

by Thomas Burke
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A top Philippine defence official said a plan to give the US more access to military bases would boost the Southeast Asian country’s defence capabilities against threats to its security as geopolitical tensions simmer.

Defence Secretary Carlito Galvez Jnr said the projects with the US under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, and other similar partnerships “are not intended for aggression.”

“We are not preparing for war, rather we are aiming to develop our defence capabilities against eventualities and threats to our security,” Galvez said in a statement late Thursday. “The geopolitical situation is becoming more precarious by the day,” he said.

The Philippines last month gave the US access to four more military bases under EDCA, bringing the total to nine. The 2014 pact allows the US to rotate its troops for prolonged stays as well as build and operate facilities on Philippine bases.

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The country is shifting its focus towards territorial defence particularly in the South China Sea, Galvez said, amid growing tensions with China. The US and the Philippines have agreed to resume joint patrols in the South China Sea, with Manila last month protesting Beijing’s move to aim what it claimed to be a military-grade laser at a Philippine ship.

“Our previous engagements and exercises with our partners used to focus on internal security operations. Now, we are eyeing to strengthen our abilities to respond to external threats that may arise along our border-areas,” he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was on a two-day visit to Manila this week, warned that US military presence in the South China Sea would escalate tensions between China and other claimants in the disputed waters.US to gain expanded access to Philippine military bases in bid to counter China

Some lawmakers, including Senator Imee Marcos, the Philippine president’s sister, said the move to allow American troops in more local sites is geared at bolstering the US’ possible defence of Taiwan instead of the Philippines.

Galvez said while he understands the apprehension of some politicians about EDCA “we must consider the volatile situation in which we operate and not view our country in isolation.”

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