Philippines, US kick off joint drills amid China concerns

Philippines, US kick off joint drills amid China concerns

The majority of activities will take place at Fort Magsaysay, the Philippines’ largest military camp, and one of the five existing sites the US has access to under its Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Manila.

Under the agreement, the US can use the bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing, but not to maintain a permanent presence.

China has slammed the expanded agreement, calling it “part of US efforts to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with this country”.

“By doing these, the US has not only heightened tension, driven a wedge between China and the Philippines, but also has disturbed and upset the joint effort of countries in this region to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement on Sunday.

The Philippines has yet to disclose the additional bases to which the US will have access, but a former military chief has said they include bases on the island of Luzon, facing north towards Taiwan, and on Palawan in the southwest, near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.