TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. military is reportedly in negotiations with the Philippines to build a port on an island close to Taiwan, which would bolster the U.S. presence in a strategic sea lane on Taiwan's south flank.
According to a Reuters report, the U.S. military is engaged in talks with the Philippines to develop a new civilian port on the Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the country and less than 200 km away from Taiwan. The port would be situated on the southern edge of the Bashi Channel, a vital waterway for ships traversing between the Western Pacific and the South China Sea.
Batanes Islands Provincial Governor Marilou Cayco told Reuters she had sought investment from the U.S. to build an "alternative port" on the island that would allow cargo from the capital Manila to be unloaded during the rainy monsoon season. Cayco said it is planned that the port will be built on Basco Island, where access to an existing facility is often hampered by large waves. A decision will be made in October.
Over the past year, the Philippines has expanded the use of its military bases by the U.S. military, doubling its number for "humanitarian assistance." In addition, thousands of U.S. troops are now regularly rotated in and out of the Philippines to participate in joint training maneuvers.
Two other unnamed Philippine officials revealed that U.S. military officials visited the island to discuss the establishment of a port. A senior military official was cited by the news agency as saying the Philippine military is also interested in deploying radar in the area to enhance surveillance capabilities.