Top US and Philippine defense and diplomatic officials on Tuesday agreed to finalize a roadmap for US security assistance to the Philippines over the next 5 to 10 years, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
Austin said the old allies discussed providing “priority defense platforms,” including radars, drones, military transport aircraft and coastal and air defense systems, at a 2+2 meeting in Washington that included the US secretary of state. State Anthony Blinken and their Filipino counterparts participated.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo told the same press conference that both sides have “redoubled” their commitment to modernizing the Philippines-US alliance.
Experts, including former US defense officials, say the US sees the Philippines as a potential base for missiles, missiles and artillery systems to counter China’s amphibious invasion of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
Austin said it was “too soon” to discuss what assets the US would like to send to military bases in the Philippines under the recently expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Manalo said the EDCA bases are primarily intended to improve military interoperability, address potential humanitarian disasters “and respond to other types of security concerns,” but did not elaborate.
The Pentagon did not specifically say what the additional bases would be used for, but the work could include airport expansion and naval asset training.
Manalo said Washington and Manila on Monday should discuss what the US can do about access to the EDCA sites.
EDCA allows US access to Philippine bases for joint training, equipment reservation and construction of facilities such as airstrips, fuel storage and military housing, but not permanent presence.
Relations between the US and the Philippines have warmed significantly under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and the 2+2 meeting underscored that for the first time in seven years. But Manila is on a delicate path with the region’s economic powerhouse, China.
Marcos assured China on Monday that military bases accessible to the United States would not be used for offensive operations, stressing that the agreement with Washington was intended to strengthen his country’s security.
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