Philippines military bases used by US not for offensive attacks, says Marcos
Manila, Apr 10 (EFE).- The four additional Philippines military bases to which United States troops will have access will not be used for “offensive actions,” the Southeast Asian country’s president said Monday.
Last week, the Philippines allowed the US to expand its military presence across four of its key bases under the two countries’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as each seek to counter China’s growing aggressiveness in the region.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning afterwards lashed out at the move, saying that Washington “has been increasing its military deployment in the region driven by a zero-sum mentality in pursuit of selfish interests. This would only lead to more tensions and less peace and stability in the region.”
At the Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan, on Monday, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that “we will not allow our bases to be used for any offensive action. These will be used only to help the Philippines, when the Philippines needs help,” according to his office’s report of his remarks.
“If no one is attacking us, they do not have to worry because we are not going to attack them. What we are only doing is continuing to bolster our territory and our Republic’s defenses,” he added, according to ABS-CBN.
The location of one of these bases is in the far north of the island of Luzon, just 400 kilometers from Taiwan, while another base on the island of Balabac, near Palawan, is in the vicinity of waters and islands disputed by Beijing and Manila.
Marcos insisted that the Philippines granted the US greater access to its military bases to facilitate aid for natural disasters, which the archipelago suffers every year.
“What we did in this EDCA is that we give chance to our only treaty partner, which is the United States – we give the chance to be able to come and help us … especially for disaster relief operations, things like that,” the president said.
Marcos’ explanation aligns with that given by the Pentagon, which said that “these new locations will strengthen the interoperability of the United States and Philippine armed forces and allow us to respond more seamlessly together to address a range of shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including natural and humanitarian disasters.”
The Philippines and the US expanded the EDCA on Feb. 2 to include US troop access to the four military bases, in addition to the five to which Washington has had access to since 2014.
The strengthened US military presence in the Philippines comes amid escalating tensions as China increases its expansion in the waters of the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with Philippines and several other nations, and as concerns grow over Beijing’s threats to Taiwan. EFE