In a move aimed at countering Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific, the Defense Department announced on Monday the locations of four new naval bases in the Philippines, with three of them located in the north-eastern part of the island of Luzon.
The expansion of U.S. military presence in the Philippines is part of efforts to counter Chinese aggression as well as China’s growing influence in the region, especially its efforts to assert control over the South China Sea.
1-Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta Ana, Cagayan
2-Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan
3-Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela
4-Balabac Island in Palawan pic.twitter.com/Jm6RGiRU57
— Indo-Pacific News – Geo-Politics & Military News (@IndoPac_Info) April 3, 2023
Naval Base Camilo Osias will be located near the municipality of Santa Ana, Cagayan, while the other base in Cagayan will be near the Lal-lo Airport. Another military base, called Melchor Dela Cruz, will be in Gamu, Isabela, also on Luzon Point.
The fourth military base will be located at Balabac Island in the province of Palawan, located in the western part of the Philippines near the Spratly Islands, a major archipelago in the disputed South China Sea.
The U.S. already operates five military bases in the Philippines on a rotational basis, but none are in the strategically important northern Luzon province. The new bases will provide a major boost to the U.S. presence in the region, as part of efforts to neutralize China’s influence.
During a press briefing, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the expansion in the Philippines “is about creating regional readiness but also being able to respond to any type of disaster or any type of humanitarian disaster that could arise in the region.”
However, China’s embassy in the Philippines has reacted angrily to the expansion of the U.S. military, saying the agreement will “seriously endanger regional peace and stability and drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development.”
The U.S. reached an agreement for the bases with the Philippines in 2014 called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the four new military bases in February during a trip to Manila but did not disclose the planned locations.
The US has committed $82 million to improving the existing military bases in the Philippines as part of the EDCA, and additional funds will be provided to establish and operate the new bases. The presence of US troops and military personnel is expected to create economic opportunities and stimulate local economies in the areas where the bases are located.