KUALA LUMPUR - The Philippines on Thursday granted the United States expanded access to its military bases amid mounting concerns over China's growing influence in disputed areas in South China Sea and tensions over Taiwan.

The Philippine Defense Ministry said in a statement that Washington would be given access to four more locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) dating back to 2014.

The move came at a time when US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in Manila for security talks.

Washington has allocated more than USD 82 million for infrastructure investments at the existing five locations under the EDCA, which gives the US access to Philippine military bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and the building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing, but not a permanent presence, the ministry said.

The US defense secretary arrived in Manila on Wednesday evening as part of a tour that has already taken him to South Korea for talks on Washington's extended security options in the Philippines.

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