The once secret ammunition depot and barracks are abandoned, empty and overgrown with weeds. It is a vestige of US firepower, which was the largest US overseas naval base in Subic Bay, northern Philippines.
But that may change in the near future.
More than 30 years after its major bases were closed, the United States is taking steps to rebuild its military capabilities in the Philippines, opening the arc of military alliances in Asia to a very different post-Cold War era. have strengthened. A regional threat is an increasingly belligerent China.
On February 2, the longtime ally announced that U.S. forces would be occupied, with the exception of five other local bases where U.S.-funded construction has picked up pace to build barracks, warehouses and other buildings. announced that a rotating batch of would be granted access to four more Philippine military camps. Under the 2014 defense agreement, it will accommodate a significant number of expected visiting troops, though not yet specified.
Manila-based political scientist Andrea Chloe Wong says the location of the Philippine camp is a necessary presence as a “strong deterrent to Chinese aggression” in the South China Sea, where China, the Philippines and four other governments are located. to the U.S. military. There are increasingly tense territorial rifts, and China could invade Taiwan. Beijing sees Taiwan as its own territory and will bring it under Chinese control by force if necessary.
The area around the former US naval base in Subic is now a bustling free commercial port and tourist destination northwest of Manila. The news that the Philippine government has allowed an expanded US military presence has rekindled memories of a time when thousands of US sailors sent money, lives and hope. to the neighboring town of Olongapo.
“Olongapo was like Las Vegas back then,” Filipino businessman AJ Saliba told The AP at a currency exchange and music store in what was once Olongapo’s flashy red light district.
“From midday the neon lights were on and Americans were walking around making noise. Women were everywhere. Jeepney drivers, tricycles, restaurants, bars, hotels, everyone was making money, so they could go back.” If so, that would be great news.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during a visit to Manila last week that Washington was not looking to rebuild permanent bases, but that the agreement to expand its military presence under a strengthened defense cooperation agreement was “a big deal.” I did.”
The visit to U.S. military officials will facilitate efforts to engage the Philippine military in large-scale joint combat readiness exercises, support rapid response to disasters, and support the modernization of the Manila Armed Forces. said Austin and his Filipino counterpart Carrito Galvez Jr.
“This is part of an effort to modernize the alliance, and these efforts are particularly important as the People’s Republic of China continues to make unwarranted claims in the Western Philippine Sea,” Austin said at a press conference in Manila. .
Mao Ning, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said the build-up of US forces in the region has heightened tensions and endangered peace and stability.
“Regional countries need to stay vigilant and avoid being coerced or exploited by the United States,” Mao Zedong said at a February 2 press conference in Beijing.
Austin and Galvez did not reveal four new locations that Americans would be allowed access to and where weapons and other equipment could be pre-positioned. said there was a need.
In November, then-Chief of the Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacalo, revealed that the locations included the strategic Subic Bay, where naval bases once benefited the local economy. However, two senior Philippine officials told the Associated Press that Subic, home to the Philippine Navy’s garrison, is not on the current list that the US government wants military access to. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Subic Freeport Administrator Loren Paulino said he had not been notified by the government that the former US naval base was designated as a potential site for US military visits.
However, the new US military presence in Subic is an important one as many Filipinos and businesses are still struggling to recover from the economic recession caused by the two-year COVID-19 lockdown and coronavirus outbreak. In time, it will create more jobs and generate additional Freeport revenue, Paulino said.
“I think of them as tourists,” he said of the U.S. military, whose presence could boost the economic recovery.
Roughly the size of Singapore, Subic’s former US naval base with deep harbors, ship repair yards and huge warehouses to support the US war effort in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s. It closed in 1992 and was turned into a commercial Freeport and Recreation Complex after the Philippine Senate refused to extend its US lease.
A year earlier, the U.S. Air Force withdrew from Clark Air Force Base near Subic after the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century revived nearby Mount Pinatubo, spewing volcanic ash into the air force base and surrounding areas.
The American flag was lowered for the last time and the last batch of American sailors left Subic in November 1992, marking the beginning of the United States military presence in the Philippines beginning in 1898 when the United States occupied the archipelago during the post-Spanish New Colonial period. Nearly a century of presence is over. The country of Southeast Asia he held as a colony for over three centuries. Washington recognized his independence on July 4, 1946, but maintained military bases and facilities, including Subic.
China’s seizure of Mischief Reef, a coral reef within the Philippine exclusive economic zone extending into the South China Sea in the mid-1990s, “provided the first hint that allies may have rapidly soured relations.” said Greg Pauling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington, DC-based Institute for Strategic and International Studies.
The Philippine constitution prohibits foreign forces from establishing permanent bases in the country and from engaging in local warfare, but under security agreements such as the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the 1998 Visiting Forces Accord. It allows temporary visits by foreign troops.
A 1998 agreement allowed large numbers of US troops to be deployed in the southern Philippines to provide combat training and intelligence to Filipino forces fighting the Abu Sayyaf group, which was then linked to al-Qaeda. A ransom involving three Americans — one of whom he was decapitated and another of whom was shot dead in a Philippine military rescue. The third survived.
But the 2014 killing of a Filipino transgender woman by U.S. Marines has been criticized by left-wing groups as neocolonialism, and domestic opposition to the U.S. presence in the Philippines remains, Wong said. said Mr.
Manuel Mamba, governor of northern Cagayan state, said Baccaro reportedly said the United States was seeking access for its troops at two local military encampments, but such a U.S. military presence has Situated on the northern tip of the main island of Luzon, Cagayan is separated by a narrow sea border from Taiwan, the Taiwan Strait and southern China.
“It’s very dangerous for us. If they stay here, whoever their enemy is, they’ll be our enemy,” Mamba told the Associated Press by phone as the dispute over Taiwan boiled over. He added that the Philippines could become a target for nuclear weapons.
“You can’t really get rid of anyone’s presumption that the Philippines has a nuclear capability, through the Americans here,” Mamba said.
https://www.voanews.com/a/us-forces-returning-to-philippines-to-counter-china-threats-/6954983.html US Troops Return to Philippines to Counter China Threat