US secures deal on Philippines bases to complete arc around China

The US has gained access to four more military bases in the Philippines. This is a crucial piece of real estate that would allow the US to have a front row seat to monitor the Chinese around Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

Washington has closed the gap between the US alliances that run from South Korea and Japan to Australia in South Korea and Japan with the agreement.

The Philippines was the missing link, as it borders two of the most dangerous flashpoints, Taiwan and South China Sea.

This deal, which partially reverses the US’ departure more than 30 years earlier from their colony, is not a small matter.

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Gregory B Poling, Director of the Southeast Asia program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Washington), says that there is no South China Sea contingency that doesn’t require access to the Philippines.

The US does not seek permanent bases. It’s all about places, not base.”

Five US sites were already restricted under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. The new additions and expanded access will, Washington stated, “allow more rapid assistance for humanitarian and climate-related catastrophes in the Philippines, as well as respond to other shared problems”, possibly a reference to China’s presence in the region.

This statement was made after Lloyd Austin, US Defense Secretary, met Ferdinand “Bongbong”, Marcos Jr. in Manila on Thursday.

Although the US has not yet revealed the location of the new bases, three could be located on Luzon, an area on the Philippines’ northern edge. This is the only land that’s close to Taiwan, if you exclude China.

China criticized the agreement saying that “US actions escalate tension in the region and undermine regional peace & stability”.

The embassy released a statement saying that the United States continues to increase its military presence in the region out of self-interest and a zero-sum mentality.

The US seeks access to places that allow for “light and flexible operations” that include supplies and surveillance, and not bases with large numbers of troops.

This is not the return to 1980s Philippines, where 15,000 US troops occupied the country and there were two major American military bases in Asia: Clark Field and Subic Bay.

In 1991, the Philippine government declared time. The Filipinos had just overthrown Ferdinand Marcos’ hated dictatorship, and the Philippines sent the colonial masters back home to cement democracy and independence.

Vietnam was over, the Cold War was ending, and China was still a military weakling. In 1992, the Americans returned home, or at least most of their families did.

You can roll forward 30 years, and another Marcos is in Malacanang Palace.

Importantly, China is not a military power and it is knocking at the Philippines’ door. Manila watched, horrified but powerless to interfere, as Beijing redrawed the map of South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. Ten artificial islands have been built by China since 2014, one of which is located at Mischief Reef. This is deep within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

According to Herman Kraft, a University of the Philippines political science professor, relations between Manila, China, and Beijing were relatively stable up until then.

“We had a live-and-let-live situation in the South China Sea. They tried to take control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012. In 2014, they started building the islands. “The relationship was changed by China’s land grab.”

Jose Cuisia Jr., former Philippine Ambassador to America, stated that “we have very limited capabilities against the threat of China.”

He claims that the Chinese have broken repeated promises not to militarize their new South China Sea bases.

“The Chinese have militarized these features, and that places more of our territory at risk. They can only be stopped by the US. It is impossible for the Philippines to do this alone.

This time, however, there won’t be thousands of US airmen and marines filling the red-light areas of Olongapo or Angeles again.

It is still sensitive to discuss the history of violence and abuse inflicted by US troops in Philippines. An estimated 15,000 Filipino children were left behind by their Filipino mothers after their American fathers returned home.

Renato Reyes (secretary general of the left-wing New Patriotic Alliance) said that “we have a long history in inequality in our relationship.” “The social costs have been borne by the Philippines. There is a long history of child abuse and rape as well as toxic waste.

Left-wing groups in the Philippines strongly oppose the US returning to the Philippines.

Although there won’t as many troops as before, Washington now requests access to new locations. Some are facing the South China Sea while others face north towards Taiwan. There are options in Cagayan and Zambales, Palawan, Isabela, according to unofficial reports.

The first is facing Taiwan, while the second faces the Scarborough Shoal and the third faces the Spratly Islands. All new US facilities will be located within existing Philippine bases. The US troops will arrive in small groups and rotate.

According to Mr Poling, the goal is to stop further territorial expansion by China in South China Sea. It will also provide a space for the US to monitor Chinese military movements around Taiwan.

He said that the Philippines cannot deter China from its territory outside of this alliance. It is buying BrahMos missiles made in India. The US wants to deploy Tomahawk cruise-missiles. They can both hold Chinese vessels together.

The Philippines could be a “rear access zone” for US military operations or a refugee evacuation site, as there is increasing concern over a conflict with Taiwan.

Mr Poling states that “people forget there are between 150,000 and 200,000 Filipinos living here in Taiwan.”

Professor Kraft warns that Manila isn’t about to join an American alliance to resist or challenge China’s rise.

“The Philippines isn’t doing the same things as Australia or Japan. It is directly challenging Chinese interests in South China Sea and East China Sea. The President Marcos desires good relations with America. He also wants to have good relations with China in order to gain economic advantages.

Beijing has also indicated that it doesn’t intend to allow Washington and Manila to enter into a new agreement to disrupt its relations.

China’s state-run Global Times published an editorial to coincide with the arrival in Manila of the US defense secretary. It accused the US of “setting up a trap for” the Philippines and “trying…”