With Manila emerging as a critical element in the Pentagon’s plans to counter China, the U.S. and Philippines aim to expedite the implementation of a stalled 2014 defense pact that would see U.S. troops gain access to a number of Philippine military facilities.

The accelerated implementation and potential expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), after it languished for years under the government of former President Rodrigo Duterte, is one of the main initiatives being discussed by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during her three-day visit to the Southeast Asian country.

Experts say the visit is not only aimed at deterring Beijing but also at mending ties that faltered under the combative and controversial Duterte.