• Marcos Jr. said he doesn't want the Philippines to be seen as 'provocative'
  • The Chinese Embassy accused the U.S. of prioritizing its self-interests in relation to the EDCA move
  • The EDCA expansion has been met with some opposition

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said the addition of new U.S. military sites in the Philippines was not in any way a move that provokes tensions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region amid concerns that the decision may stir tensions with China and other countries in the association.

"It's a valid concern. And it's something that we have to pay attention to, that we will not be seen as provocative to anyone," Marcos Jr. said of the issue, as per The Manila Times. He also said he thinks about the situation often as the Philippines wants a "peaceful" region.

The Philippine president's statements came after the Chinese Embassy in Manila said earlier this month that the United States' agreement with the Philippines to add new military sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in the country was a move that undermines regional peace and stability.

"China always holds that defense and security cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability, not target against any third party, even less to harm the interests of a third party. The United States, out of its self-interests and zero-sum game mentality, continues to step up military posture in this region," the Chinese Embassy's spokesperson said in a statement on Feb. 2.

"Its actions escalate regional tension and undermine regional peace and stability," the embassy said, adding that the Chinese government hopes "the Philippine side stays vigilant and resists from being taken advantage of and dragged into trouble waters."

The Chinese Embassy's comments came hours after the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines announced the agreement of adding four new EDCA sites.

At the time, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement that adding new military locations "will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges."

Marcos Jr. said Monday that the government has yet to decide where the new sites will be designated, GMA News reported.

There are five existing EDCA sites, including Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and the Basa Air Base in Pampanga. The other sites are located in Cebu, Palawan and Cagayan de Oro City.

Meanwhile, the EDCA expansion has faced some opposition even before the agreement was made earlier this month.

Activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said allowing a more robust U.S. military presence in the country would be "a throwback to the Cold War era" wherein nations "were used to U.S. wars of aggression in Asia," according to the Philippine Star.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba also expressed doubts over the possibility that his province will be chosen to host a U.S. military site.

Mamba said that while he has not consulted with the people of Cagayan yet, he personally thinks foreign bases in the Philippines "will always be a magnet also for nuclear power attack."

For Mamba, the Philippines "can't afford" to deal with nuclear attacks, adding that while Filipinos are willing to die for their country, his people will not fight the battles and wars of other nations.

Philippine Pres. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his first State of the Nation Address, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2022. Jam Sta Rosa/Pool via REUTERS Jam Sta Rosa/Pool via REUTERS