Subic military base buildup vital to Philippines, US

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The plan of the Philippines' Department of National Defence (DND) to develop a military base inside the Subic free port is a critical part of the country's national security programme, a defence official said.

It is also critical to the United States' plan to "pivot" to Asia, a new military strategy that will see 60 per cent of US warships shifting to the region by the end of the decade.

The planned shift, announced earlier this year, has drawn sharp criticism from Beijing, which sees it as a strategy to contain China, an emerging military power whose increasing aggressiveness in asserting its claims in Southeast Asian waters is causing worries in the region.

While Washington has sought to assure Beijing that the strategy is not intended to box in China, the United States has proceeded to conclude agreements with Singapore and Australia that will allow shelter for US war groups in the region.

The United States also conducts regular joint military manoeuvres with Asian countries, often billed as civil-military exercises for disaster preparedness.

Going on in the Philippines, which has a mutual defence treaty with the United States, are joint exercises between US and Philippine marines, and the venue is exactly where the DND plans to build a base that a spokesperson for the department says is vital to the country's security programme.

AFP modernisation

"The Armed Forces [of the Philippines] is modernising in a very aggressive [way]," Peter Paul Galvez, DND spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone on Wednesday.

"In a few months, we are embarking in procurement and we intend to use those areas in Subic for our air platform and naval assets," Galvez said.

"We have a big interest in the area," he said, referring to the 200-hectare airport complex in the Subic free port, a former US naval base at the boundary between Zambales and Bataan provinces.

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) earlier announced that the agency wanted to convert the idle Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) into a tourism and commercial hub, like Sentosa Island in Singapore.

Part of modernisation

But SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia later said the plan would not proceed because the DND wanted to use the airport as a military base.

The DND, Galvez said, has asked Congress to approve P75 billion for the modernisation of the military in five years.

Part of the modernisation programme is a plan that calls for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to use SBIA at Cubi Point and the adjacent seaport, Galvez said.

The US Navy built the airport during the Korean War in the 1950s. It left Subic in November 1991, two months after the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of the Philippine-US military bases agreement.

The Philippine government, through the SBMA, converted Subic into a special economic zone and free port.

Galvez said discussions with the SBMA had not yet touched on leases.

"These are really needed, really perfect. These are very ideal. It is cheaper to locate [in Subic] than replicate [the facilities] elsewhere," Galvez said.

"Subic can handle large aircraft. It has a deep sea," he added.

SBMA understands

Asked if the SBMA resisted the DND plan, Galvez replied, "They understand."

"Having a military base in Subic is good for everyone there. It will support economic growth," he said. "It is strategic for all. We are intently looking at it. We need the facilities."

Galvez said the military had retained Air Force units at the free port in Clark, Pampanga province.

The Air Force units at the 300-hectare Air Force City in Clark are the First Air Division, 600th Air Base Wing, Air Logistic Command, Air Reserve Command, 710th Special Operations Wing and 410th Maintenance Wing.

In exchange for the lease, the Air Force helps secure the international airport and aviation areas in the free port at Clark.

Galvez said he had no information yet on which units would move to Subic. There is no schedule yet for the construction of the military base there, he added.

Not aimed at China

Aware of the potential repercussions of the plan, Galvez said the base was not part of efforts to beef up the capability of the Philippines to deal with China's aggressiveness in asserting its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.

China's insistence that it owns the entire sea has led to a face-off between Philippine and Chinese ships at Panatag Shoal (Scarbourough Shoal) from early April to mid-June, about the time US officials were going around the region explaining the new US military strategy.

But the plan to build a military base in Subic, Galvez said, has been existing since the 1990s. "It got waylaid for lack of funding," he said.

"Our country needed strategic sites to monitor [our seas] and land, and these sites have national security implications," he said.

The development of the new military base does not include engaging the US military for its use or even for shared use, he said.

Should troops from the United States or Australia use the Air Force facilities in Subic, this would be covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement with those countries, he said.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

  • Project NOAH exec receives recognition
    Project NOAH exec receives recognition

    Project NOAH executive director and University of the Philippines professor Mahar Lagmay recently received recognition from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his work in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Philippines. …

  • Nightclub ban for US troops
    Nightclub ban for US troops

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said yesterday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow the 10-day annual military exercises, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow
    US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening  defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Palace defends legal tack in sea row
    Palace defends legal tack in sea row

    There is nothing weak about taking the legal and diplomatic approach to push for the country’s claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, Malacañang maintained yesterday. On Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares led a rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest China’s massive reclamation activities in the Spratly island group to fortify its presence in the disputed waters. Colmenares also criticized the Philippine government for supposedly not doing enough to defend …

  • Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death
    Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death

    The sons of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, yesterday appealed to government officials to do everything to spare their mother from death. “We love you,” Mark Daniel, 12, said when asked for a message for his mother following a press conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Mark Daniel, an incoming Grade 8 student, reiterated his appeal to those in power to help save his mother from death. His younger brother, …

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options