President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines has declared that the United States military will be stationed at four different sites throughout the nation, including one in a province abutting the South China Sea conflict region.

The Marcos government declared last month that it would permit cyclic sets of US troops to stay in four military camps in the Philippines in addition to the five already recognized under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The Philippines has a long and complicated relationship regarding matters concerned with the South China Sea. It is one of six countries claiming parts of the sea, which encompasses some 1.3 million square miles and is believed to hold vast oil and natural gas reserves and major fisheries.

The area has been the subject of heated territorial disputes between China and the Philippines. In July 2016, the international tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippine government against Chinese claims over a large portion of the South China Sea. In response, China refused to accept the ruling and has since increased its presence with military activities such as constructing and deploying weapons systems. This further increased tensions between China and other claimants, including the Philippines. Unilateral attempts by any side to claim ownership or control over contested areas could have severe implications for regional security and stability. As a result, the contentious issue remains unresolved.

Now, the Philippines’ northern parts will house the new American bases, which is expected to provoke China due to the strategic proximity of these bases to Southern China and Taiwan.