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Friday, March 31, 2023
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Friday, March 31, 2023
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    US, Philippines agree to larger American military presence

    MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) – The United States (US) and the Philippines yesterday announced plans to expand America’s military presence in the Southeast Asian nation, with access to four more bases.

    The agreement was reached as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in the country for talks about deploying US forces and weapons in more Philippine military camps.

    In a joint announcement by the Philippines and the US, the two said they had decided to accelerate the full implementation of their so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which aims to support combined training, exercises and interoperability.

    As part of the agreement, the US has allocated USD82 million toward infrastructure improvements at five current EDCA sites, and expand its military presence to four new sites in “strategic areas of the country,” according to the statement.

    Austin arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday from South Korea, where he said the US would increase its deployment of advanced weapons such as fighter jets and bombers to the Korean Peninsula to bolster joint training with South Korean forces in response to North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.

    US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III walks with Western Mindanao Commander Lieutenant General Roy Galido. PHOTO: AP

    In the Philippines, Washington’s oldest treaty ally in Asia and a key front in the US battle against terrorism, Austin visited southern Zamboanga city and met Filipino generals and a small contingent of US counterterrorism forces based in a local military camp. The more than 100 US military personnel have provided intelligence and combat advice for years to Filipino troops battling a decades-long insurgency, which has considerably eased but remains a key threat.

    American forces were granted access to five Philippine military camps, where they could rotate indefinitely under the 2014 EDCA defense pact.

    In October, the US sought access for a larger number of its forces and weapons in an additional five military camps, mostly in the north. That request would be high on the agenda in Austin’s meetings, according to Philippine officials.

    “The visit of Secretary Austin definitely, obviously will have to do with many of the ongoing discussions on the EDCA sites,” Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez said at a news briefing.

    Austin was scheduled to hold talks Thursday with his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez Jr, and National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, Romualdez said.

    Austin will separately call on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who took office in June and has since taken steps to boost relations with Washington.

    The US defence chief is the latest senior official to visit the Philippines after Vice President Kamala Harris in November in a sign of warming ties after a strained period under Marcos’s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

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