(Manila) The Philippines announced Monday the location of four new military bases that can be used by the United States, including one near the disputed South China Sea and another not far from Taiwan.

The four sites are considered “appropriate and mutually beneficial,” the presidential press office said in a statement.

In early February, during a visit to the Philippines by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the two allies unveiled an agreement to allow US soldiers access to four additional bases located “in strategic regions” of this country. Southeast Asian countries.

Washington and Manila have been security allies for decades, including through a 2014 defense treaty and pact, known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows U.S. soldiers to to access five Philippine bases, but also to store military equipment and materials there.

This number was increased to nine in February, but the location of the four additional bases had not been specified. Talks are continuing for a potential tenth site, a Filipino official told AFP at the time.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos has approved the use of three sites in the northern Philippines, including a naval base and airport in Cagayan province and a military camp in neighboring Isabela province, the statement said.

Santa Ana Naval Base in Cagayan Province is located about 400 km from Taiwan.

A fourth site will be on the Balabac Archipelago, off the southern tip of Palawan Island (West), near the South China Sea.

The United States is seeking to strengthen its ties with Manila, which have been strained in recent years. Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had preferred to turn to China to the detriment of Washington, a former colonizer of the Philippines.

But the new Philippine government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr wants to strengthen its partnership with Washington, pushed by Beijing’s claims to Taiwan and the construction of Chinese bases in the South China Sea.

Some 500 U.S. soldiers are currently stationed in the Philippines, with more moving within the country on joint exercises throughout the year.