The US military is seeking more access to the Philippines, sources tell Reuters, though not, they hasten to add, new full-blown bases there. The Philippines voted to remove gigantic US naval and air bases 20 years ago, but the country remains a US ally, and the US is hoping for more access to its ports and airfields to refuel warships and planes. "It's access, not bases," one official clarified. And the desire seems to be mutual.
Tensions are mounting in the South China Sea over the disputed and oil-rich Spratly Islands. Philippine officials came to Washington last month to discuss increased military exercises between the two countries. The US is trying to bolster its presence in the region anyway, announcing plans for a Marine base in Australia and warships in Singapore. But the US will probably have to scale back plans for bases in Japan and Guam thanks to budget concerns and political pressure, the Washington Post reports.