In a move that is sure to bolster the United States foreign policy in the region, the Pentagon has announced it will be sending more troops and equipment to the Philippines. This comes as tensions continue to mount in the South China Sea, with China and the Philippines claiming territory. The Philippine Army has welcomed the news, stating they are grateful for America’s support.
In the recent meeting of US President Joe Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Biden acknowledged the countries’ “very deep roots.”
“The Biden administration’s embrace of Marcos reflects the growing importance of the Philippines in the United States’ regional strategy, particularly for Taiwan. To this end, the two sides are strengthening their alliance in preparation for contingencies in the region,” as noted by South China Morning Post.
“We’ve had some rocky times, but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship, from our perspective,” the US president said. “I hope you feel the same way.”
The United States has had a long and fruitful military partnership with the Philippines. This cooperation can be traced all the way back to 1898 when the United States helped the Philippines gain its independence from Spain. The two countries have since worked together in several conflicts, including World War II and Vietnam.
Today, the United States continues to provide important military support to the Philippines. This has recently taken the form of training and equipment assistance. In 2015, for example, the United States provided more than $40 million worth of military aid to the Philippines.
“We are going to do a full battle test for operating together, including in Northern Luzon” near the country’s sea border with Taiwan, Colonel Michael Logico, director of the Philippine military’s Joint and Combined Training Center, said in an interview with the Financial Times.
This support is essential for the Philippine Army, which faces significant challenges in defending its territory. The South China Sea is a particularly contested region, with China and the Philippines claiming territory. As tensions continue to mount in the area, it is clear that the Philippine Army will need all the help it can get.
The Philippines occupies a strategically important position in the China-Taiwan war. The country is directly across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China, and its army is one of the largest and best-equipped Southeast Asia.
As for the Marcos administration, Lisa Curtis, an Indo-Pacific expert at the CNAS think-tank in Washington, said Manila is wary about being sandwiched in the possible China-Taiwan war, so they are looking for realistic solutions for these threats.
“Washington would almost certainly look to Manila as a staging ground for logistics support and US forces. That is why it is important for the US and the Philippines to advance talks on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” said Curtis, referencing the 2014 bilateral agreement, whose implementation has significantly slowed in recent years.
The Philippine Army also supports the notion or bringing back a stronger alliance with the United States.
“We are a US ally, we are in a strategic location. We are so near that if anything happens in Taiwan we will be involved,” said General Emmanuel Bautista, former chief of staff of the armed forces of the Philippines.
Gregory Poling, a south-east Asia expert at CSIS, also said the US is eyeing the Philippines to be its main strategic location for preparing for any future threats.
“You’re starting to see a consensus emerge within most of the Philippines’ government that the Philippines does need to deepen the alliance with the US,” Poling said.
The Philippines is one of America’s most important allies in Asia, and its strategic location makes it an important asset in any conflict with China. The United States will continue to support the Philippines militarily as tensions between the two countries continue to mount.