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Is The US Looking For New Military Bases? (2nd Update)

July 13, 2009

sarangani gensan montage FUTURE U.S. BASE SITES?

The United States is moving to implement a modified version of its Cold Ware-era forward deployment of its land, sea, and air forces to serve the dual purpose of improving its “protective umbrella” for its Asia-Pacific allies in the war on terror while also “addressing the heightened threat posed by rogue states like North Korea.”

Informed sources requesting anonymity told me “the strategic revolves around the  need for America to respond effectively to major regional contingencies (MRCs).”

Writing  for the influential think tank Rand Corporation, Professor Richard L. Kugler of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy had pointed out just several years ago:

The collapse of the Soviet Union forced the United States to redesign its military strategy for the first time in decades. It responded by developing the so-called Regional Strategy. The Regional Strategy has as its hallmarks a commitment to continuing alliances, maintenance of a forward presence, and a focus on regional rather than global conflicts. It posits a need to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies (MRCs) and designs a Base Force to provide that capability. The process of designing a military strategy is particularly difficult today because of the enormous international and domestic changes under way.
Needed in these turbulent times is a reinvigoration of the strategy analysis process that served the United States so well at the beginning of the Cold War. In his book U.S. Military Strategy and Force Posture for the 21st Century: Capabilities and Requirements, Richard L. Kugler proposes a new approach to a military strategy for the nation. Kugler argues that the Regional Strategy, even if modified to reflect the priorities of the current administration, can endure only if the international situation remains substantially unchanged. Five ongoing revolutionary transformations make such stability unlikely. They are
•    changes in the nation-state system
•    the shift from bipolarity to multipolarity
•    ideological change such as the triumph of democracy over communism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and ethno- nationalism
•    worldwide economic upheaval
•    spreading modern military technology. “
While Prof. Kruger cited the foregoing before the election of Barack Obama as the first US President of Afro American heritage he goes on to stress the need for a “new strategy” where the United States “accepts the need to be able to deal with two roughly concurrent MRCs and a force the approximate size of the Base Force. But it proposes different strategic foundations. Casting aside the focus on deterrence and containment, it seeks a new set of regional security mechanisms that balance military power, promote a sense of community, and discourage aggression and competitive multipolar rivalries. Nuclear forces will decline in importance as conventional forces assume larger roles in U.S. military strategy. But these forces will have to be capable of a wide range of missions, both combat and noncombat.”

My sources told me how “along the lines of Prof. Kruger’s analysis and those currently in the Obama White House, there is a felt need for the United States to gain access to new surface military bases endowed with deep water ports capable of accommodating our nuclear powered submarines while also servicing our aircraft carrier battle armadas.”

Hearing those words, four Philippine locations, past and present came to mind: the former Clark and Subic (include Cubi naval station) bases, and Sarangani and Gen. Santos City areas which have fully developed ports and high capacity airports built with generous U.S. financial support.

Could it be that the Americans are eying GenSan and Sarangani?

My sources refused to speculate but this writer can’t help to think that given communist North Korea’s nuclear sabre rattling and China’s  massive military forces buildup in recent years fuelled by it economic boom, the United States cannot but look to its regional allies for help in preventing a lopsided military imbalance favouring China and North Korea.


I am sure no official admissions will be forthcoming but it is surely in the realm of possibilities that visits to the region of personalities like US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta have direct relation to the reshaping of American military defense strategy in this part of the world.

US troops pulled out of Thailand at the close of the Viietnam war half a generation ago but the United Stated still does maintain military bases in Japan and South Korea with just under 40,000 American GIs in Japan and another 30,000 along the Korean Demilitarized Zone, apart from vital air assets in Guam.

Filipinos aware of the constitutional ban on the foreign military bases will be thinking about this as President Arroyo goes to the White House at the end of the month.


In the flush of the People Power revolt that installed a revolutionary government Pres. Cory Aquino immediately convoked a Constitutional Commission which (apart from mandating the notorious private armies) also took heed of nationalist activism against the coontinued presence of US military bases.

So it was that this provision was written into the 1987 fundamental law:

Section 25. After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.

So after the new Philippine constitution went into force in 1987 a 4-year period was set for the Philippine and US government to try to craft a treaty covering Clark and Subic bases which at the time were the largest American military enclaves outside the US mainland.

Having held and developed the two ‘assets’ since the turn of the 20th century, both Clark and Subic had full capability to service all American forward military deployment, and logistics storage and resupply.

The two bases’ high capacity runways and Subic’s deep sea port that even had a submarine base plus the Subic-Cubi Point station’s runway allowing aircraft carriers to dock right at its runway’s edge for US fishters to be easilu rolled on and rolled off ship!

The US Naval Shipyard for its 7th Fleet was right in Subid with warship drydocking capability.

Surrounding the to bases were Olongapo ang Angeles cities – the preferred R & R points of American servicemen. (This ‘entertainment’ side industry was also heavily denounced by Filipino activists for the toll they exacted on the moral fiber: the proliferation of prostitution and  hundreds if not thousands of ‘Amerasian’ children fathered, and then abandoned by US soldiers. The other social cost: scores of rape cases and scattered incudent of Filipino ‘natives’ being “mistaken” as ‘boars’ and shot near the bases or ijured ib ‘live firing’ exercises.)

In l991, absent a new military bases treaty, the Philippine Senate held the historic vote that shut down Clark and Subic bases.

Turned into economic assets, Clark and Subic freeports are now flourishing as magnets for foreign investments and economic growth. Former weapons of war turned into plowshares for progress.


Former Air Force Chief and retired Maj. Gen. Ramon Farolan, who also served as Customs Commissioner is perhaps one if not the most respected ex militsary men in the country.

His calm, fatherly demeanor never fails to impress and inspire, along with his unassailed integrity.

I make this prefatory note in light of Mr. Farolan’s column today in the Inquirer where he gave a reading of what message the CIA chief bore when he met Pres. Arroyo:

After the amenities and briefings were done with, Panetta and Arroyo retired to another room for private talks.
Panetta: President Obama sends his best wishes. He extends an invitation for you to visit Washington. You will be the first leader from Southeast Asia to be so honored. The date has been set for July 30. The President’s schedule is quite full and we hope that you will be able to adjust, considering the short notice. It will be a “no frills” type of visit—an Oval Office meeting and possibly, coffee with Mrs. Obama. Our economy is in bad shape and we are operating under austerity conditions.
Arroyo: I’ll be there.
Panetta: President Obama has also asked me to convey to you his concerns about the future of the Philippines. (Does that sound familiar?) It is important that elections next year push through as scheduled, and we see no need for the imposition of any kind of emergency rule. We are aware of the sudden and unexplained changes in the AFP leadership (a reference to the sacking of Generals Yano and Luna, AFP chief of staff and vice chief of staff, respectively). We hope that the military remains focused on the insurgency and terror threats and not get involved in politics.
Also, Madam President, any changes in the Constitution can wait until after the elections. In the meantime, it is best to observe term limits.
Arroyo: You leave me few options.
Panetta: As someone once said, we should cut, and cut cleanly.
Just as Panetta is about to leave the room, he turns toward Mrs. Arroyo and says: President Obama is concerned about the delicate health of Mr. Arroyo. Perhaps he should stay home.

While Mr. Farolan’s essay is rendered in tongue-in-cheek fashion it certainly is full of insight.

His end reference to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is full of meaning given persistent rumors that US authorities have been investigating Mr. Arroyo’s financial activities.

In fairness to Atty. Arroyo such scuttlebutt has not been confirmed by US authorities.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. rybautistajr permalink
    July 14, 2009 3:13 am

    This could just be a continuation of US efforts to re-establish military ties with the Philippines started during the younger Bush years. We would remember that during the Bush years and leading up to Obama’s term, joint RP-US military exercises have been very active thru the VFA, the validity of which has been affirmed by our Supreme Court. Also US efforts at infrastructure development, including airports, seaports and road works, have been very active in the Sarangani area mainly through US military engineers (conditioning the locals minds and gaining social acceptabiity for continuing US military presence?).

    By the way joint military exercises with US under the VFA provides for US military personnel’s indefinite presence, which makes their stay in the Philippines more or less permanent. All that is needed, it seems, is a de jure military base.

    • July 14, 2009 3:23 am

      Yes, perhaps. I believe, though, that the American military establishment will try to be a bit more cautious given the lessons from their Iraq and Afghan campaigns plus the over-all scaling down of US military bases i other parts of the globe.

      But as I posited, the dynamics will indubitably be impacts by how north Korea and China are behaving.

      And yes there are already much smallerUS basing/troops support facilities within several Philippine military locations down South.

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