Washington and the Philippines have announced plans to create four more American bases in the Southeast Asian nation
The US military will be deployed to four new bases in "strategic areas" of the Philippines, the two countries announced on Thursday. The agreement was reached during the ongoing visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who met Philippine President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr in Manila.
The two nations are set to "accelerate the full implementation" of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a framework regulating the deployment of US troops to the Philippines, which is listed among Washington's "major" non-NATO allies.
"The United States has allocated over $82 million toward infrastructure investments at the existing five sites under the EDCA, and is proud that these investments are supporting economic growth and job creation in local Philippine communities," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Apart from further development of the existing bases, the US military will be deployed to four new sites in unspecified "strategic areas of the country."
"The United States and the Philippines have committed to moving quickly in agreeing to the necessary plans and investments for the new and existing EDCA locations. The Philippine-US Alliance has stood the test of time and remains ironclad. We look forward to the opportunities these new sites will create to expand our cooperation together," the Pentagon added.
The move comes amid mounting tensions in the region, namely around Taiwan and the South China Sea, a busy waterway subject to overlapping maritime and territorial claims by multiple nations, including China. The Philippines, a former US colony and long-standing Washington ally, has maintained close economic ties with Beijing.
China has already condemned the US-Philippines plan, accusing Washington of stirring up further tension. The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines expressed hope that Manila would be "vigilant and resists from being taken advantage of."
"The United States, out of its self interests and zero-sum game mentality, continues to step up military posture in this region. Its actions escalate regional tension and undermine regional peace and stability," the embassy said in a statement.
"Such moves contradict the common aspiration of regional countries to seek peace, cooperation and development, and run counter to the common aspiration of the Filipino people to pursue sound economic recovery and a better life in cooperation with China," it added.