THERE IS A DISTURBING sense of déjà vu in the Philippines. Thirty-seven years after the nonviolent People Power movement ended the brutal and kleptocratic 20-year reign of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., his only son and namesake sits comfortably in the presidential palace. Following in his father’s footsteps, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is once again cozying up to the United States.
In 2012, the Obama administration began to “rebalance” U.S. military and trade agreements in Asia. Since 2014, the U.S. has had access to five military bases in the Philippines and trains Filipino soldiers under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) — all part of Obama’s “pivot to the Pacific.”
In February this year, Marcos agreed to allow the U.S. military to pre-position troops and weapons at another four bases. This gives the U.S. the largest military footprint it has had in the Philippines in 30 years, when a Filipino-led anti-colonial independence movement led to the removal of all permanent military bases in their country.
In its push to expand EDCA, the Biden administration said it would spend $82 million on projects at the first five bases. In addition, U.S. ambassador MaryKay Carlson announced $100 million in new foreign military financing for the Philippines “to use as it wishes.” The Philippines is already the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in the region, receiving $1.14 billion in weapons and equipment since 2015. U.S. and Philippines government officials claim that the purpose of this growing U.S. military presence is to help with humanitarian crises and disaster relief, as well as to prepare for a future conflict with China, most likely over Taiwan.