Marcos: U.S. access to bases not for 'offensive action'

STORY: Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr defended granting the U.S. access to military bases in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

Marcos says it was defensive step that would be "useful" if China attacked Taiwan.

His comments came at the end of a four-day visit to Washington -

during which the two countries agreed to update their nearly 72-year defensive alliance.

"Whilst tensions across the Taiwan Strait seem to be continuing to increase, then the safety of our Filipino nationals in Taiwan becomes of primordial importance. And so, these EDCA sites will also prove to be useful for us should that terrible occurrence come about. Again, it's all, we have a very defensive posture.”

Last month, the U.S. and the Philippines staged their largest-ever joint military drills,

with more than 17-thousand soldiers taking part and which also included live-fire drills at sea.

The U.S. also gained military access to four new military bases on the Philippines in February.

Three of which face north towards Taiwan - the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

China has said that decision was "stoking the fire" of regional tension.

But Marcos on Thursday sought to allay those fears:

"The U.S. has not proposed any kind of action for the Philippines in terms of taking part in the defense of Taiwan, or in any other affirmative action that the United States might feel they need to take. Again, as I said it's of a defensive nature."

As tensions rise in the South China Sea,

Marcos said before his trip to Washington he would press President Joe Biden about the extent of the U.S. commitment to protect his country.

His engagement and approach with the U.S. marks a swift about-face from his Beijing-friendly predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

Experts say the U.S., for its part, sees the Philippines as key to any effort to counter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.