Philippine ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Philippines will allow U.S. forces to access its military bases in the country if China-Taiwan tensions escalate.
In an interview with Nikkei Asia, Romualdez said access to the country’s military bases would be given “if it is important for us, for our own security.”
“Nobody wants to have any kind of war or confrontation," he said. “We want to ask both countries to lessen the tension by having more dialogue and then trying to resolve all of these issues, because it's in our part of the world.”
A spokesperson for the Pentagon said the U.S. and the Southeast Asian country regularly have discussions on "deepening our enduring security alliance under the auspices of the Mutual Defense Treaty and multiple other agreements, including the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement [EDCA]."
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“Looking ahead, we seek to enhance the posture of our alliance to address new and emerging challenges," the spokesperson told Nikkei Asia. “We intend to continue to implement infrastructure projects at current EDCA locations and explore additional sites for further development."
Under EDCA, American forces are only allowed to have a rotational, temporary military presence at several bases in the Philippines. The number of visiting U.S. personnel is contingent on "the scale and the frequency of the activities to be approved" by the two countries.
Construction and upgrades to the facilities, which are maintained by U.S. forces with ammunition, fuel and medical supplies, among others, were already planned under the 2014 agreement; however, "limited progress" was observed during the Duterte administration.
Romualdez hopes that the country will witness progress soon, saying, “Hopefully, in the next three years, that we can have all of these areas that we have identified already."
He also mentioned that Washington and Manila are currently in talks to increase the number of military bases in the Philippines that U.S. personnel can use, which could possible include a naval base.
"Our military and the military of the United States are all looking into what are the possible areas," Romualdez said.
Tension in the region was ignited after China launched a military drill near Taiwan waters in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) visit to Taiwan in early August. Days after Pelosi's visit, two delegations from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party also organized separate trips to Taiwan despite rising tension with China.