By Carlo Muñoz - 06/06/12 06:18 PM EDT
“They can come here provided they have prior coordination from the government,” Filipino Under Secretary for Defense Affairs Honorio Azcueta announced shortly after his meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on Monday.
Azcueta's announcement opens the door for the first American military deployments to Clark Air Force Base and the naval base in Subic Bay since DOD officially shuttered the facilities in 1991 and 1992, respectively.
The only active U.S. military operation in the Philippines has been a U.S. special-operations task force supporting Filipino forces in their ongoing campaign against Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim extremist groups in the southern part of the country.
The deal to reopen Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base was struck during Dempsey's visit to the Asia-Pacific region to attend the Shangri-La defense talks held in Singapore last Saturday.
Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta used the three-day conference among top U.S. and international defense officials to sell the White House's new Pacific-focused national security strategy to its regional allies.
That said, the Philippines is poised to take on a large part of that emerging U.S. strategy in the region.
In March, the Obama administration opted to triple the amount of military funding to the Philippines as U.S. forces look to expand their foothold in the country.
Manila will receive $30 million in foreign military funding from the the United States this year, according to news reports — nearly three times the $11.9 million in military funds Washington pledged to the Philippines in 2011.
That money will likely help support the hundreds of Marines expected to flood into the Philippines in the coming years.
In April, DOD officials agreed to relocate 9,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and other outposts in the Pacific. It remains unclear whether those displaced Marines will end up on Filipino soil.
Monday's basing agreement also comes months after Manila announced plans to build a new seaport in the Spratly Islands, off the coast of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam in the South China Sea.
Local residents claim the seaport is the first step in creating a mini-naval base for U.S. and Filipino troops. The Philippine government claims the effort is strictly designed to support commercial business and tourism to the island.
The South China Sea has become a continued flash point for tensions between American allies and China, as Beijing continues to flex its growing military might in the region.
In April, Chinese and Filipino warships engaged in a tense standoff in the South China Sea, spurred by conflicting territorial claims to the hotly contested waterway.
Continued Chinese investment in advanced military hardware, from fifth-generation fighters to aircraft carriers, has only fueled concern within Washington and in the Pacific over Beijing's regional aspirations.