In 1946, the United States of America and the Philippines started their diplomatic relationship based on strong historical and cultural linkage. Today, the USA gets four more military bases in the Southeast Asian nation, deepening their diplomatic ties.
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Four More Bases to the United States of America.
A joint statement given by the United States of America (USA) and the Philippines has declared that the USA will get four more military bases in the archipelago country. The defence agreement was formed when the US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin visited Manila and talked to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The Philippines is the US’s oldest ally in the Asia-Pacific and this is seen as historical and a cornerstone for both nations. Now, 9 USA military bases are found in the Philippines.
The official defence websites of both the country’s wrote,
“The Philippines and the United States are proud to announce their plans to accelerate the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the agreement to designate four new Agreed Locations in strategic areas of the country and the substantial completion of the projects in the existing five Agreed Locations.”
The security relations between the two countries were formed during the cold war when the first defence treaty was signed. Since then, they have also been conducting joint exercises and joint military training. The presence of the US has been felt important to maintain a balance of power in Asia and also to help the Philippines in ensuring maritime security and sovereignty. The archipelago nation faces some of the deadliest natural disasters and the US is seen providing humanitarian aid at such a time
The EDCA is one of the recent security alliances between the US and the Philippines in 2014. According to the agreement, the US troops are allowed to rotate through 5 Philippine bases, most of which are located near the disputed water areas.
The location of the newly granted military bases has not been known yet but the US has claimed that these bases will fulfil the purpose of storing defence equipment, providing supplies to the main bases and allowing more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines. The existing five bases will also receive the amount of $82 million for infrastructure investments.
The Origin of Defence Relations between the USA and the Philippines
The Philippines gained independence in July 1946. But it was in 1934 when according to the Tydings-McDuffie Act that provisions for a sustained US military presence in the Philippines post-independence were mentioned. A year later after its independence the first Military Base Agreement was signed between both countries, the same agreement also granted the permission to establish bases at more than a dozen locations. Later, a separate treaty was made which talked about the US’s military assistance to the Philippines. These treatises are seen as historical in International Relations as it was the first time that the USA had succeeded in making security treatises in the Asia-Pacific.
Asian Geopolitics and the role of the USA
Asian geopolitics has witnessed a strong shift since the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping. China has become aggressive in its territorial and maritime claims. The Chinese claim on the South China Sea and Taiwan is dislodging the balance of power in Asia. Its program of actively building islands on these territories has put the sovereignty of Southeast Asian nations under threat. China aims to control the global trade routes and this has become a problem for the US.
The relationship between the US and the Philippines was under strain when Rodrigo Duterte was the President. He openly favoured China and wanted to expel the US troops from the Philippines territory. He was actively vocal about ending relations with Washington. The relations between the countries flourished once against after Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected last year. The visit of the Vice-President of the USA Kamala Harris also had a significant impact on the relations between the two countries.
It has been noted that the Philippines has been under extreme pressure from China to contravene International Law and hence US assistance was needed. The new bases are expected to be found in Luzon, Palawan ( the western island). An additional base will also be made facing the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has already built 7 artificial islands in the Spratly region.
Co-dependence between the US and the Philippines
While it is known that the latest moves come due to Chinese aggressive- expansionist policies, claims in the South-China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan. The US also find it very strategic to improve relations with the Philippines to beware of the activities in Asia and the Indo-Pacific. The US-Philippines ties are likely to remain a pillar of US security policy in Asia for years to come. The US has made similar alliances with Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand which remain pivotal for both Asia and the US.
The US military also plays a vital role in humanitarian and natural disaster response in the Philippines. In 2013 after typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines received more than $87 million in humanitarian assistance. The US is also responsible for delivering essential relief supplies and equipment, including emergency shelter material and food, and coordinating the transportation of relief workers and rescue of survivors.