The US will likely return to Subic Bay, Philippines, 30 years after closing what was once the largest US military base in Asia, Kyodo News reported on Thursday.
The US is planning to build new military facilities in the Philippines as part of its effort to confront China in the region and is in talks with Manila to set up five new locations. The construction will be done under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a military pact between Manila and Washington signed in 2014.
Since the US base in Subic Bay was closed, the area has become a bustling port overseen by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). Rolen Paulino, the head of the SBMA, told Kyodo that he would be “very surprised” if Subic Bay does not become an EDCA site, as “during war, time is of the essence.”
Thursday marked the 30th anniversary since the US officially closed the base and the SBMA was founded. Subic Bay is on the west coast of the Philippine island of Luzon on the South China Sea and could be the front line for any future conflict with China in the region.
The South China Sea has become a potential flashpoint between the US and China as Beijing, Manila, and several other Southeast Asian countries all have overlapping claims to the waters. The US has rejected most of China’s claims and frequently sails warships into the region to challenge them.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines this week, and the White House said a focus of her trip was to work on the expansion of the US military presence under the EDCA. While meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Harris reaffirmed that any attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea would trigger a US response under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.