Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Letting the Bases Go

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Letting the Bases Go

Article excerpt

THERE are all kinds of good strategic reasons for keeping the American military bases in the Philippines but the United States has just begun negotiations that may very well see them phased out. If it comes to that, it should not be too distressing a prospect.

Technically, the big air base at Clark Field and the naval base at Subic Bay are Filipino facilities with an American presence. But that is fiction, and anybody who has spent any time at them knows that in practise they are American bases and on them the United States does pretty much what it wants.

Clark Field has the busiest runway in use by the United States Air Force anywhere in the world. Subic Bay is a huge repair and resupply base for the American fleet. More than two-thirds of the materiel that goes to support US forces in the Indian Ocean goes through the Philippines. The bases in the Philippines afford the United States the opportunity to protect Southeast Asia, including the critical sea-lanes carrying oil to Japan, should the need arise. They provide a counterpoint to Soviet forces in the Far East, particularly the Soviet air and naval units that have been using the former American base of Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Their presence has also been influential in keeping President Cory Aquino's democratically-elected government in power in the face of coup attempts.

If the bases had to be re-established elsewhere in Asia they could be, although at vast cost. The wages alone that would have to be paid to local workers on the bases in, say, Guam, would be about three times the wages paid to Filipinos.

In recent years, American planners have looked on the bases in the Philippines as a deterrent to the use of Soviet military power in the Far East. If the Soviet threat is fading, there remains China, with an unpredictable regime in power, and Japan, whose World War II invasion of Southeast Asia remains vivid in the memories of most Asian leaders.

On the Filipino side, the argument for retention of the bases is largely economic. The bases are the second largest employer in the country, providing work for more than 60,000 Filipinos. …

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