The United States has secured access to four new military bases in the Philippines – key sites that will provide the US military with a forward position to monitor Chinese activity in the South China Sea and around Taiwan. With the agreement, Washington filled a gap in the United States’ chain of Pacific islands from South Korea and Japan to Australia in the south.
The gap in the island chain used to be none other than the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan, and the South China Sea, or the “West Philippine Sea,” as Manila insists.
According to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the United States and the Philippines in 2014, the United States has previously had limited use of five bases located in the Philippines. The new location and expanded access will “allow for more rapid support to humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines and to address other shared challenges,” Washington said in a statement. This is most likely an allusion to countering China in the region.
The statement came after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Philippine President Marcos Jr. in Manila today (February 2). The White House did not reveal the location of the new military bases, but three of them could be on the island of Luzon, on the northern edge of the Philippines. If China is not considered, this is the only large landmass closest to Taiwan.
This agreement, to a certain extent, reversed the situation in which the United States left its former colony more than 30 years ago, and its impact cannot be underestimated.
“Without Philippine access, there is no contingency (operation) in the South China Sea,” said Gregory B Poling, director of the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank. Sexual bases, this time turf rather than bases.”
In other words, the White House is seeking access to “light and flexible operations” sites that can resupply and monitor “as needed”, rather than military bases where large numbers of troops are stationed.
In other words, this is not a return to the 1980s, when there were 15,000 U.S. troops and the two largest U.S. military bases in Asia were in the Philippines, at Clark Field and nearby Subic Bay.
In 1991, the Philippine government halted the bases. At that time, the Filipinos overthrew the dictatorship of the hideous Ferdinand Marcos (Ferdinand Marcos), and also sent the old colonial masters home, further consolidating the country’s democracy and independence. The Vietnam War has long since ended, the Cold War is ending, and China is still a weak military country. So in 1992 the Americans left, or, at least most of them came back.
Throwing back more than 30 years, another Marcos — Marcos Jr., or “Bang Bang” as he was known — returned to the Malacañang Palace, the presidential palace.
But more importantly, now that China is no longer a military weak country, it is getting closer to the Philippines.
Frightened but powerless to intervene, Manila watched as Beijing began to redraw the map of the South China Sea. Since 2014, China has built 10 artificial island bases, including a military base on Mischief Reef, deep in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
According to this, Herman Kraft, a professor of political science at the University of the Philippines, explained to the BBC that there were no major problems in the bilateral relationship between Manila and Beijing before that: “We used to have mutual benefits and coexistence with China in the South China Sea. But in 2012 In 2014, they tried to seize control of Scarborough Shoal (Scarborough Shoal). Then in 2014, they started building these artificial islands. China’s land grab changed the relationship.”
“Our ability to deal with the Chinese threat is very limited,” Jose Cuisia Jr., a former Philippine ambassador to the United States, told me.
He emphasized that the Chinese have repeatedly broken their promise not to militarize the new South China Sea base: “The Chinese have militarized these places, which puts more of our territory at risk. Only the United States has the ability to stop them. The Philippines cannot do it alone at this point.”
The history of violence and abuse perpetrated by the US military in the Philippines remains a sensitive topic.
When GI fathers return to the United States, an estimated 15,000 children remain in the Philippines with their mothers.
“Our relationship has been unequal for a long time,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of the leftist group New Patriotic Alliance, told reporters.
“The Philippines has been forced to bear the social cost. There is a history of rape, child abuse and toxic waste,” he added.
Left-wing groups in the country strongly oppose the return of the United States to the Philippines.
While the return of U.S. troops to the Philippines is not expected to be as large as in the past, the White House is now demanding access to several new strongholds, some facing the South China Sea and others facing Taiwan to the north. Unofficial reports point to Cagayan, Zambales on Luzon, Palawan and Isabela .
Cagayan Province faces Taiwan, Zambales Province faces Huangyan Island (also known as Scarborough Shoal, Democratic Reef, Scarborough Shoal), and Palawan faces the Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands, Spratly Islands).
Any new U.S. facilities would be housed within existing Filipino bases, with U.S. troops entering in small groups on a rotating basis.
Bolling told the BBC the aim was to deter China from further territorial expansion in the South China Sea, while also providing the US with a base from which to observe China’s military operations around Taiwan.
Bolling also explained, “Aside from this alliance, the Philippines has no way to stop China… Manila is buying BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles from India. The United States wants to deploy Tomahawk cruise missiles ( Tomahawk cruise missiles). Together they can control Chinese ships.”
With fears of Taiwan conflict growing, the Philippines could provide a “back channel” for US military operations, or even a place to evacuate refugees: “Don’t forget that there are 150,000 to 200,000 Filipino nationals working in Taiwan.” Bolling told the BBC.
But Professor Kraft warned that Manila would not be a close member of the US coalition to challenge or defend against China’s rise.
“The Philippines is not doing things like Australia and Japan to directly challenge Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea or the East China Sea. President Marcos wants to maintain good relations with the United States. But he also wants to maintain good relations with China for economic benefits.”
Beijing, for its part, said it did not intend to let the new base agreement between Manila and Washington undermine China’s relations with its neighbors. When the U.S. Secretary of Defense arrived in Manila, China’s official media Global Times published an editorial criticizing the White House for “setting a trap for the Philippines in an attempt to push the Philippines to the front line of confrontation with China.”
“Once again we are caught in the middle,” Reyes of the Left Alliance told me, saying that China is as much a capitalist empire as the United States. “The Philippines still has a colonial mentality — it sees the US as its big brother.”
Source: British Broadcasting Corporation