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Subic Bay decision could mean more U.S. troops in Philippines

By Jim Gomez

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:38 a.m. HST, Jul 28, 2013

MANILA, Philippines >> The Philippines plans to relocate major air force and navy camps to a former U.S. naval base northwest of Manila to gain faster access to waters being contested by China in the South China Sea, according to the country's defense chief and a confidential government report.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said today that as soon as relocation funds are available the government plans to transfer air force and naval forces and their fleets of aircraft and warships to Subic Bay, which has become a busy free port since the 1992 departure of the U.S. Navy.

"It's for the protection of our West Philippine Sea," Gazmin said from South Korea, where he was on a visit, using the name adopted by the Philippine government for the disputed South China Sea.

Relocating about 250 air force officers and men to Subic, along with "increased rotational presence of foreign visiting forces" would bolster business and trade at the port, according to a confidential defense department document obtained by The Associated Press

Subic's international airport has been underutilized since U.S. courier giant FedEx transferred its lucrative regional hub from Subic to China in 2009, officials said.

The Philippines plans to grant visiting U.S. forces, ships and aircraft temporary access to more of its military camps to allow for a larger number of joint military exercises than are currently staged each year.

A larger U.S. presence could be used for disaster response and serve as a deterrent to what Philippine officials say have been recent aggressive intrusions by China into its territorials waters.

Subic Bay is a natural deep harbor that can accommodate two large warships acquired recently by the Philippines from the United States, a defense treaty ally, he said, especially compared to shallower harbor at the naval fleet base at Sangley Point in Cavite province, south of Manila.

The first U.S. Coast Guard cutter was relaunched as the Philippines' largest warship in 2011. President Benigno Aquino III will lead ceremonies on Aug. 6 to welcome the second ship at Subic, the Philippine navy said.

The defense department document obtained says Subic's location will cut reaction time by fighter aircraft to contested South China Sea areas by more than three minutes compared with flying from Clark airfield, also north of Manila, where some air force planes are based.

"It will provide the armed forces of the Philippines strategic location, direct and shorter access to support West Philippine Sea theater of operations," the document said.

The report said the cost of repairs and improvements for an air force base in Subic would be at least $119 million. It said that compares with an estimated $256 million that it would cost to build a new air force base, because the vast Subic complex about 50 miles west of Manila already has a world-class runway and aviation facilities.

The Philippines has backed Washington's efforts to reassert its military presence in Asia as a counterweight to China's rise. While it has taken diplomatic steps to deal with China's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Philippines has struggled to upgrade its military, one of Asia's weakest.

Philippine vessels backed off from the disputed Scarborough Shoal last year after weeks of a tense standoff with Chinese surveillance ship, a move that gave China effective control over the vast fishing ground off the country's northwest.

Many fear the territorial conflicts in the South China Sea, which also involve Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, could set off a serious conflict that could threaten Asia's growing economies.

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Bdpapa wrote:
That was a great Liberty Port. Olangapo City will come back to life. Just got to cros sh*t river.
on July 28,2013 | 08:22AM
stingray65 wrote:
Bdpapa, don't you like that smell? I bet you had your fun out there before!! LOL :)
on July 28,2013 | 04:52PM
samidunn wrote:
Remember the kids diving off the bridge into the river?
on July 28,2013 | 05:34PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Yup, threw some coins in there a few times.
on July 29,2013 | 05:08AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I loved it there.
on July 28,2013 | 10:05PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Amazing. The Philippines government invited the US to leave Subic Bay and The Philippines in the mid-1990s. Now that they feel threatened by China, they seem to want us back.
on July 28,2013 | 09:53AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Ronin on US in the PI. Actually, the US has more to gain by having a basing agreement with the Philippines. The US needs to protect US citizens who work, live, study and tour in Asia and maintain security of air and sea lanes which we need for trade and freedom of travel. Along with other countries in the region, the US has a need to be engaged with allies and adversary countries to coordinate joint humanitarian aid, respond to natural disasters, as well as counter transnational terrorism, piracy and assist in relocation of non-combatants in regional wars.
on July 29,2013 | 08:17AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
China is eyeing the PI fir its resources. The Philippines wants us back as a buffer to China. We need to be engaged but I don't think we should have an onsite military presence.
on July 29,2013 | 08:39AM
Anonymous wrote:
How laughable! What is the Philippines going to send out to meet the Chinese Navy, a couple of banca boats? They wanted us out of there 20 years ago and we obliged them. Let them defend their own turf. We shouldn't be fools and insert ourselves where we're not wanted. Let them fight their own battles. Goodness knows we've poured billions and billions of dollars building Subic Bay and Clark Field and defending them. Let's not throw good money in after bad.
on July 28,2013 | 03:15PM
stingray65 wrote:
Time for the Philippines and its Government to Paddle thier own canoe!! They wanted U.S. Armed Forces before, and now they wanted us back? The mother of the President wanted us out of there, the Congress, and the whole Senate!! Hey, start making your bow and arrow against the Chinese Armed Forces!!
on July 28,2013 | 04:51PM
pridon wrote:
Liberty won't be the same anymore. Its the new Navy. In the old days, the saying was "what happens in Subic stays in Subic". In the new Navy, Its, what happens in Subic gets you fired".
on July 28,2013 | 06:00PM
Bdpapa wrote:
6-8 weeks at sea, doing nothing but working long hours, gotta let the guys cut loose!
on July 29,2013 | 05:09AM
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