With Manila emerging as a critical element in the Pentagon’s plans to counter China, the United States and the Philippines have reached a deal that will see Washington substantially increase its military footprint in the Southeast Asian country.

Announced Thursday by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez Jr., in Manila, the pact will grant U.S. forces access to four more military sites in the country — in addition to a previously agreed five — providing Washington with a strategic footing on the southeastern edge of the disputed South China Sea.

The Pentagon did not identify the new sites, saying only that they will be in “strategic areas” of the country. Media reports, however, put most of the new facilities on the main island of Luzon, the closest Philippine landmass to Taiwan, where U.S. forces already have access to two military facilities.