Latest on the U.S. and the Philippines
A recent article in the New York Times discusses recent shifts in U.S.-Philippines security relations. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S.-Philippines relationship has moved more explicitly to containing China and less focused on counter-terrorism. In the aftermath of the attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. had deployed a Joint Special Operation Task Force in the Philippines January 2002 as part of the U.S. military operation Enduring Freedom that focused on counter-terrorism operations in the southern Philippines. That task force was formally ended in early 2015 although a number of personnel remain in advisory roles. (The RAND corporation recently completed an assessment of that task force).
Despite the ending of those operations, U.S-Philippine military ties will continue to grow. Annual military exercises known as Balikatan will continue, the latest ending April 15. In addition, Last month the U.S. and the Philippines agreed upon the locations of where U.S. military forces would have access under the auspices of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Implmentation of the agreement, which was signed in 2014, had been stalled while Philippine opponents challenged the agreement on constitutional grounds and critics argued that the agreement would do little to support the Philippines in its conflicts with China in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea disputes. Proponents of the agreement disagreed. A majority of the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality agreement in January and in its 10-4-1 decision argued that the agreement met constitutional standards. Dissents, such as those by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen argued that the agreement represented a significant shift from previous agreements allowing U.S. forces to be located temporarily on Philippine soil under the Visiting Forces Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines.