US to upgrade Philippine military bases as Duterte reverses stance

Philippine marines and their US counterparts taking part in annual Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise at navy base facing the South China Sea in San Antonio, Zambales province, north of Manila. 9 October 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to scrap joint US-Philippine military exercises

The US will upgrade and expand its facilities on Philippine military bases this year, the Philippine defence minister has announced.

Delfin Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte would honour plans for the US to build barracks, warehouses and runways in at least three locations.

The move comes despite comments from Mr Duterte last year in which he said he wanted US troops to leave his country.

Under a defence pact, the US has troops at five Philippine military bases.

The Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement (EDCA), signed in 2014, allows the US to deploy ships, aircraft and troops at those bases and to store equipment for humanitarian and maritime operations.

"EDCA is still on," Mr Lorenzana told a news conference.

He said President Duterte had promised to honour all existing agreements with the US, a long-time ally of the Philippines.

Last week, the head of the US Senate's Armed Forces Committee, Senator John McCain, proposed $7.5bn (£6bn) in new military funding for US forces and their allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since taking office last June, Mr Duterte has caused consternation in Washington by saying he wants to pivot away from the US towards China.

In October he said he wanted US troops to leave the country, possibly within two years.

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