People and activists in the Philippines have denounced their government's deal with the US that allows American forces to have greater access to military bases and increase their military footprint in the South China Sea amid tensions with China.
The Biden administration clinched an agreement with the Philippines to grant the US access to four more military bases in the east Asian country, which was announced on Thursday during a visit by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Outside the camp in Manila where Austin held talks with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., protestors denounced the increased military presence of the US in their country.
"Filipinos do not need additional American troops and facilities in the country. It will only serve to increase the tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait," former lawmaker and activist Teddy Casiño said.
"And deploying additional facilities and troops in the Philippines will drag the country into the conflict, which is between China and the United States."
US using Philippines to preserve its hegemony
"They would want to use my country to preserve their hegemony in Asia," Anna Malindog-Uy, vice president of the Manila-based think tank Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute, was quoted as saying by Xinhua on Friday in reaction to the new agreement.
"That is not part of our national interest. Our national interest is to become an economically prosperous country. And we can only do that if we can have peace in the country and peace in the region," she added.
Malindog-Uy said their survival as a nation "will be threatened", adding that the deal is not for the Philippines but for American military activities.
The US and the Philippines have also agreed to resume joint patrols in the South China Sea as part of the agreement. The two countries had suspended maritime patrols in the hotly contested area under the rule of former president Rodrigo Duterte.
Marcos, the incumbent president, is the son of the former dictator of the same name who was a close US ally.
China claims the South China Sea in its entirety. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the waters. The United States, however, sides with Beijing’s rival claimants in the dispute.
China has always warned the US against military activities in the sea. Beijing says potential close military encounters between the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region may cause accidents.