xi's moments
Home | Asia Pacific

New US military bases in northern Philippines are 'provocation' against China and peace: analysts

By By Prime Sarmiento in Hong Kong | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-04-04 23:45

Experts from the Philippines and China voice their concerns over four more military bases for the United States in line with Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. SCREENSHOT FROM LIVE BROADCAST

The ongoing expansion of the Philippines defense pact with the United States, especially the four new military bases for use by the US, threatens to upend the Southeast Asian nation's relations with China, as the US is going for confrontation instead of moving to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea.

In a forum held in Manila on April 4, experts from the Philippines and China said that diplomatic bilateral negotiations, such as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea, need to be used to resolve the tension over the disputed waters. The two neighboring countries will also need to strengthen existing economic cooperation through increased trade.

The forum was held a day after the Philippine government announced four more military bases that the US will have access to, in line with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that was signed in 2014.

These sites are the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta Ana, Cagayan and Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo in the northern Philippine province of Cagayan, which faces Taiwan of China, and Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in the province of Isabela, and Balabac Island in the southwestern province of Palawan.

Melissa Loja, senior research fellow at the Integrated Development Studies Institute and an expert on international law, said what could be considered as an escalatory move is the requisitioning of weapons and military contractors as well as US troops in those new sites.

So regardless of where the sites are, "the requisitioning of weapons and troops would be the escalatory move," Loja said.

"It is important for the Philippines as well as for ordinary citizens like me to define our perspective in the current situation, and the first step is to understand that whatever policy we formulate has to be situated within the great power competition that is now ongoing," Loja said. "We the Philippines is not about to engage in a great power competition with China or the US."

Hu Bo, director of the South China Sea Probing Initiative and director of the Center for Maritime Strategy Studies in Peking University, described the move as "100 percent provocation".

He said the expansion of US military access to the Philippines will put the Southeast Asian nation in "the center" of the competition between China and the US. It will also complicate the situation in the South China Sea.

Victor Corpus, former chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said expanding US military access to the Philippines will allow the US to store even nuclear weapons in the Southeast Asian nation, and provoke China to respond.

"So what will happen to the Philippines? We will be at the center of a conflict between two superpowers," Corpus said. He even said the Philippines will likely fall into a proxy war, like Ukraine.

Herman Tiu Laurel, president of the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute, said that the strategic intention of the US is really clear. "The US is in the drive for war," Laurel said.

Laurel noted that China does not want war, and if China is "sensing some insecurity because of the actions of the Americans, there's justification for it."

Rommel C. Banlaoi, a national security analyst and president of the Philippines-China Friendship Society, said the new bases are "extremely damaging to Philippine-China relations".

He said most security experts viewed this move as provocative and a betrayal of the mutual understanding that was developed during Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's visit to Beijing in January.

The hybrid forum held in Manila on April 4 discusses the potential threat of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that the Philippines signed with the United States in 2014. SCREENSHOT FROM LIVE BROADCAST

Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy, vice-president for external affairs at the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute, said, "The Philippines should pursue an independent foreign policy… which also means neutrality. I personally don't think that we have an independent foreign policy at the moment. But I still believe that there's a long way to go and our president is still new in office."

Yan Yan, vice-director of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, said after President Marcos visited Beijing in January, it takes time to implement those cooperative proposals. "I do have faith in the future of cooperation," Yan said.

Both China and the Philippines are involved in the Code of Conduct negotiation on the South China Sea. "Between China and the Philippines… for the long term, we still need to resolve the dispute (on the South China Sea) between us and only between us," Yan added.

Malindog-Uy noted that the ASEAN region or the Asia Pacific region at the moment is relatively peaceful. "I really hope that peace will be sustained, because what's going on right now, geopolitical tension (has) really heightened. And I think there's only one thing that we want, we want peace and we want economic development."

Yan Yan noted the role of a hotline set up between foreign ministries of China and the Philippines after the visit of President Marcos. Yan is hoping to establish hotline links between defense departments, or maritime law enforcement departments, to manage potential crisis.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349