PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the Philippines will see to it that giving the United States military access to four new bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will not be seen as a “provocation” that could further heighten tension in the South China Sea.
The President was reacting to growing concerns that allowing the expansion of US military presence in the country will not sit well with other countries, particularly China, which have staked claims in the disputed waterway.
“It’s a valid concern. And it’s something that we have to pay attention to, that we do not be seen as… anything that we do will not be seen as provocative to anyone,” the President said in a chance interview Sunday.
Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines are claiming parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in gas and mineral resources.
China, however, insists that practically all of the South China Sea is part of its territory.
Marcos said he has always been for maintaining peace in the region, and will avoid moves that will disrupt that peace.
He said the additional EDCA sites “will not have the opposite effect from what we want, which is to make the tensions [in the South China Sea] even higher.”
He refused to identify the new sites, saying they are still under study.
“I think when I get back I will have a command conference and we will decide once and for all. And we’ll announce [the specific details]. But [it will not] take too long,” he said.
In a statement on February 2, after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 3rd finalized arrangements to set up four more EDCA sites, the Chinese embassy in Manila said the US’ military posture in the region escalates tension and undermine regional peace and stability.
It said that Washington, “out of its self interests and zero-sum game mentality, continues to step up military posture in this region.”
Austin “smeared China on the issue of South China Sea to advance the anti-China political agenda of the US,” the embassy said. “Such moves contradict the common aspiration of regional countries to seek peace, cooperation and development.”
Source: Manila Times