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Editor’s Note: This piece by Seth Robson features quotes from CSP Senior Fellow, Grant Newsham.

American military personnel will visit a Philippine island near Taiwan next month to discuss building a new, U.S.-funded port, according to Philippine officials.

The new port, at Basco on the island of Batan, would be 100 miles north of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and 120 miles south of Taiwan.

It could be used in times of crisis, including disaster response, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, a Philippine navy spokesman, told journalists at a briefing March 12, the Philippine Inquirer reported the following day.

The Batan port project is a response to Chinese threats, said Grant Newsham, a retired Marine colonel and senior researcher with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.

“It is true of course that improved port facilities in the Batanes islands do help the local economy and are also useful in responding to natural disasters (i.e. typhoons) that blow through this area frequently,” he said by email Wednesday. “But at the end of the day, the interest being shown to this part of the Philippines is driven by the [Chinese] aggression.”

The new port should, at a minimum, be able to support U.S. and Philippine destroyers and smaller vessels, Newsham said.

“Don’t forget that besides having long enough and big enough piers, the water needs to be deep enough to accommodate ships of a certain size, and support facilities ashore are also necessary,” he said.

A port on the island would be extremely useful in a Taiwan contingency and even shore-based anti-ship missiles on Batan could cover a large area, Newsham said.

“Chinese ships trying to swing around the southern end of Taiwan or even land troops in the southern part of Taiwan will find themselves running a gauntlet of anti-ship missiles,” he said. “And the coverage provided by missile-armed ships operating out of Batanes makes things even worse for [China] — as the missile ranges are extended and from different attack vectors as well.”

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U.S. and Philippine soldiers conduct breaching operations during Balikatan 23 by is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED 

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