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Enhancing U.S.-Philippines Defense Cooperation in a Changing Climate

Underway supply replenishment

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian H. Abel

By Christine Parthemore, Executive Director, The Center for Climate and Security

As part of a long trip through the Asia-Pacific, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made news this week during his stop in the Philippines, where he announced new details of America’s current defense relationship and plans to expand it. The U.S. will be “deploying nine aircraft and hundreds of U.S. troops and special operators to at least seven bases in the Philippines as part of a new, regular presence there,” as Stars and Stripes reported. This additional presence, Carter stated, is primarily to “tamp down tensions” in the South China Sea.

With more U.S. assets and personnel heading to the region, the U.S.-Philippines partnership needs to include measures to ensure preparedness for some of the more damaging effects of climate change, including sea level rise, that will hit the Philippines particularly hard. The bilateral relationship already includes work relevant to preparing for the changing climate, including the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief elements of the annual Balikatan exercise. Other productive cooperative activities could include:

  • Sharing sea level rise projections relevant to military and coast guard facilities.
  • Where projections need updating, develop them together. This should include reviewing whether data can be leveraged from existing terrestrial monitors and remote sensing assets.
  • Share lessons with the Philippines from U.S. bases already being hit by sea level rise, such as our critical defense sites in the Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads area.

Be sure to track Carter’s trip at the Department’s extensive Asia-Pacific Rebalance website, and check out the Center for Climate and Security’s analysis and recommendations on climate change and the Asia-Pacific rebalance here.


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