Beijing’s ambassador to Manila claimed on Friday that the Philippines is “stoking the flames” of regional tensions by granting access to an expanded military facility to the United States, which wants to meddle in China’s relations with Taiwan.
In accordance with an Expanded Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that was inked in 2014, the Philippines this month named four additional bases that Washington may use.
The location of the sites is significant, with three facing north towards Taiwan and one near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
“Facts speak louder than words. Obviously, the U.S. intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan Strait to serve its geopolitical goals, and advance its anti-China agenda at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large,” Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian told a forum.
The U.S. embassy in Manila said the EDCA “is not about any other third country”.
“EDCA sites will support combined training exercises and interoperability between U.S. and Philippine forces to ensure that we’re even better prepared for future crises,” its spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay said in a phone message.
The Philippines’ defence ministry on Saturday said EDCA is not directed against any country, and is in line with efforts to protect national sovereignty and enhance capability to respond to emergencies and disasters.
Regarding Taiwan, the ministry said the Philippines’ main concern is the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) on the island.
“The Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ rather than stoking the fire by offering the U.S. access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait, if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs,” Huang said.
“The Philippines has no intention of interfering in the Taiwan issue and will not allow itself to be used by other countries to interfere in the said issue,” the National Security Council said on Saturday.
The Philippines’ foreign ministry did respond to requests for comment.
The EDCA underlines the strategic importance of the Philippines to the United States and came at a time of concern over China’s conduct in the South China Sea and tension over self-ruled Taiwan.
It allows U.S. access to Philippine bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and building of facilities, but it is not a permanent presence and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has assured China the bases would not be used in any offensive action.