US, Philippines Agree to Greater US Military Presence: NPR
The United States will expand its presence in Southeast Asia with access to more bases in the Philippines, the two countries announced Thursday.
“The American commitment to the defense of the Philippines is ironclad. Our alliance makes our two democracies more secure and helps maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Austin said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. in Manila.
The Department of Defense first announced the move, which is widely seen as a way to deter China’s influence in the region, on Wednesday night during a visit to the Philippines by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Austin landed in the capital Manila on Tuesday evening and met with Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and other top officials ahead of the announcement.
Analysts say the expansion is a resumption of the enhanced defense cooperation agreement, which aims to support combined training and exercises. The pact was originally signed in 2014, but progress has stalled over the years due to former President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to turn away from the United States in favor of Beijing.
When the current Marcos government came to power last year – Bongbong is the son of late president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. – he promised to revive relations with the United States.
Maritime affairs expert Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines School of Law said this latest announcement does not necessarily mean more US troops on the ground, but rather “primarily provides the United States with an opportunity to build infrastructure on Philippine military bases and for the prepositioning of military supplies and equipment.
According to the Department of Defense statement, the US military will use four new military bases in the Philippines, bringing the total number of bases in use to five.
While US and Filipino officials have taken pains not to name China specifically, analysts say this larger footprint could help deter China both from taking action against self-governing Taiwan and containing Beijing’s presence in the country. the South China Sea.
Over the years, China has grown increasingly aggressive toward its South China Sea neighbors by making what other countries see as excessive territorial claims on the crucial waterway and building military installations in the sea. region, among other actions. Philippine officials say allowing the US military to use their bases will help better protect Manila’s interests in the South China Sea.
But not all Filipinos agree with this plan.
Jes Aznar/Getty Images
Many Filipinos have expressed fatigue with the prospect of leaving more US military personnel stationed in the Philippines again. The last US military bases were dismantled in 1992, when a debate over their presence and the sovereignty of the Philippines reached an impasse.
Lia Maza, general secretary of the International League for People’s Struggle, a Philippines-based organization that seeks to coordinate anti-imperialist movements, said her group opposes a greater US military presence in the Philippines because of “Past and ongoing violence against women and the LGBT community in relation to the presence of US troops.”
“There have been murders and violations of women’s rights and … and justice has not been served,” she said.
One of the most notable cases is that of Jennifer Laude, a trans woman who was murdered by a US Marine in 2014. Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberten was first convicted in the Philippines, but was pardoned by former President Duterte and allowed to return home to the United States.