US Philippines Army Joint Exercise
US Philippines Army Joint Exercise

STATE DEPARTMENT - The United States and the Philippines have agreed on five locations that  American military forces can have access to under a 10-year security deal that comes amid rising tensions with China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The two countries have been discussing where in the Philippines the U.S. forces could operate under the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). 

Under the deal struck Friday in Washington, the five agreed-to locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.

"Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Philippines alliance, in terms of ensuring both countries' mutual defense and security, as well as jointly contributing to regional peace, stability and economic prosperity," State Department spokesman John Kirby said Friday. 

The bilateral EDCA was signed in 2014 but faced legal challenges from groups opposing a U.S. military presence. 

Earlier in January, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the bilateral defense agreement is consistent with the Philippine constitution, which was seen as a boost for U.S. efforts to reassert its presence in Asia.

The agreement for U.S. military to have a presence in five Philippines bases came amid tensions between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea, where the countries have competing territorial claims. 

But the State Department cautioned that "no other nation in the region should take any other message away from this new agreement." 

"What it signals is our commitment to our alliance with the Philippines," Kirby said. 

The U.S.-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue was led by Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amy Searight; and Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Evan Garcia and Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino for the government of the Philippines.