Philippines says allowing US to access its military sites not for war
Manila, Mar 3 (EFE).- Defense Minister Carlito Galvez has said giving the United States access to Philippine military bases was an act of deterrence and not to engage in war.
Galvez also justified the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which would grant the US access to four new bases and allow Washing increase its military footprint in the country.
The minister said the projects under the defense pact with the US would enhance the preparedness of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and speed up external defense development.
“Our projects under EDCA and our other defense partnerships are not intended for aggression. We are not preparing for war, rather we aim to develop our defense capabilities against eventualities and threats to our security,” Galvez said.
Several Philippine senators and governors had opposed the decision to grant the US access to four new military bases in the archipelago, in addition to the five agreed upon when the pact was first inked in 2014.
The US and the Philippines signed the upgraded agreement on Feb.2.
At least two of the new bases would be located on the northern island of Luzon, less than 300 km from Taiwan.
It would mean that the US can use the Philippine base if China invades the self-governing island.
The US has also sought access to Palawan in the southwest, which is close to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippines straddles a crucial location in the Pacific, and we have seaboards to the north, south, east, and west,” Galvez said, defending the enhanced pact.
Cagayan province governor, Manuel Mamba, has opposed giving the US access to more military sites because it would directly pit the Philippines against China.
“Do not let us tell them that they are our enemies because of the US,” Mamba told a senate hearing. “Let them have their own war.”
The defense minister said enhanced military cooperation with Washington would also deter Chinese militarism in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has alleged frequent incursions by Chinese ships into its territorial waters.
China has also allegedly constructed artificial islands on reefs and atolls some 200 miles from the Philippine coastline.
One of the military bases that could host US troops and warships is Subic in the northwest of the Philippines.
Until 1992, the site was the biggest US naval base on foreign soil. EFE