The Philippines wants to accelerate a defense pact with US for troops and bases that was earlier stalled, as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. bolsters security ties with a treaty ally amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Arsenio Andolong, spokesman for the Department of National Defense, said the Southeast Asian nation is working with the US to speed up projects under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that was shelved under former President Rodrigo Duterte. First signed in 2014, the pact allows the US to rotate in troops for prolonged stays as well as build and operate facilities on its bases.
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“The department is committed to accelerate the implementation of the EDCA by concluding infrastructure enhancement and repair projects at existing EDCA sites,” Andolong said.
This includes “developing new infrastructure projects at existing EDCA locations, and exploring new locations that will build a more credible mutual defense posture,” he added.
The renewed discussions over the security pact follow worsening ties between the US and China, two countries on which the Philippines is trying to balance with given the latter remains a major trading partner. While the move appears to bring it closer to the US on the security front, officials have continued to warn the region should not be made to choose sides between the two.
Andolong said that $65.5 million has been earmarked for approved projects under the agreement thus far and they are slated to be implemented in the next two years.
The Philippines and the US have also maintained talks over how to implement its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty to “ensure that it remains relevant to address contemporary security challenges,” he said.
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