The return of US bases to the Philippines


Subic Bay, Philippines: After 44 years working for human rights and social development in Olongapo City, the former home port of the US 7th Fleet, I have seen the futility of using military violence to solve political and territorial problems. The Korean, Vietnam, and Middle Eastern wars were launched or supported from here. The massive loss of human life and destruction makes war untenable. The return of the US Marines, Navy and Air Force to the Philippines will not advance a peaceful negotiated settlement of the sea dispute between the Philippines and China. It’s like calling in the neighborhood strong man to threaten a schoolyard bully. Dialogue is better and wiser than the threat of violence and confrontation especially when the US has no intention to carry it out. A non-enforceable threat fizzles out like a damp squib. The so-called negotiations between the Philippine government and the United States for “rotational” US troop deployments here to oppose Chinese expansionism make little sense. It will be a basing agreement which is unconstitutional. There must be another hidden purpose.

The Philippine government made the correct move in taking the dispute over the occupation and claims of China to Philippine shoals and islands to the United Nation, bringing in the US military as a threat will not help. What the Philippines needs to do is to summon up its courage and stand up for itself to China, the bully boy of Asia, and shake off its colonial dependency on the United States to rattle its sabers at every incursion of Chinese ships.

If the Philippine government officials will take an independent, non-violent stand to defend its sovereign territory in the strongest words possible, it will win international respect and cooperation and there will be a worldwide protest and outcry against the aggressive occupation and claims of China to Philippine territory. Rushing to hide behind the iron skirts of Mother America is shameful, an indication of moral weakness and an unnecessary embarrassment for the brave Filipino people who can fight non-violently for their rights.

The one thing that a proud nation like China wants to avoid is the shame and criticism that might be heaped on it by the world if it persists in its baseless claims to Philippine territorial waters. It has to protect its “face,” that aura of dignity and honor that it believes it needs to convince world opinion that it is acting in a right and just way when in fact it may not be. It’s time for China to back away with dignity and “save face.” World opinion is a mightier weapon than US warplanes and ships.

China will want to show to the world that it is a responsible member of the international community and not be dubbed a predatory, aggressive, sea-grabbing nation. This negative incursion into territorial waters will damage its credibility in Africa and South America where it is trying to win friends and spread its influence. When international criticism and the ire of nations grows and less trade is the result, it may all the sooner relinquish its baseless claims to Philippine territorial waters and shoals. No amount of oil and gas resources buried beneath the waters will be worth international repudiation.

China will not be intimidated by a show of force anyway. As a proud, ancient civilization, one of the oldest on earth, they know that the US will never be so foolish to resort to threats of military violence or engage in conflict on behalf of the Philippines. So the increased presence of the US military will not frighten China, only increase its resolve. Political action on the world stage by the Philippines and its supporters is the way to resolve this problem.

It was long argued if the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US covered such disputes as occurred over the Spratly Islands, and the US made it clear at that time it was not bound to act in such a dispute. US Military assistance is only offered if the Philippines is attacked. So why is the US so eager to come back to the Philippines as part of its “pivot” towards Asia, what’s in it for them?

A more realistic purpose for the return to bases in the Philippines is to position troops, drones, planes and ships in proximity to areas where militant Islamist organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda are active. Resurgent groups in Mindanao, Indonesia, Malaysia could pose a threat to American interests and for the US to have the capability of a fast response to present and future threats is an important advantage. The closing of 19 US embassies recently is an indication of the level of that terrorist threat and the Philippine bases are an ideal location for propositioning US forces to counter it and at the same time guard international sea lanes from pirates. The recent bomb blasts (including the first car bomb) in Philippine cities could well be the response of the jihads to this planned return. The Filipino people will be the first to suffer.,


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  1. Father,

    I have to disagree with you. I met my wife of 24 years now when I was a US Military stationed at Clark AB. There are good things that come out of the US bases being there like jobs for Filipinos. What if you are wrong about china using force. You can seek shelter in another country but they can’t.

  2. Vince Delarosa on

    Father Cullen, I don’t think you can use the words pride and shame in the same sentence when talking about China. This is the country that wrote the book on infringement of international copyright laws. By the way , what does the local Chinese community feel about their mother country’s bullying?

  3. wether it is first for the US interest to bring back the US bases so be it, as al qaeda is also the enemy of the Philippines with its affiliates like JI, Abu Sayaf and maybe MNLF, MILF, and BIFF. these are all enemies of the state and need to be neutralized. Besides the repositioning of US troops back to the PHL can lead to more donations of military assets as the armed forces of Philippines is trying to upgrade its assets. the businesses that will aslo thrive in servicing the US ships including resupplies and repair will create more jobs. And with the bullying of China in south china seas who else can checked her or stop her but the US and its allies like Japan, PHL, Vietnam and the rest of ASEAN. China is a threat as it shows.

  4. I absolutely agree with your opinion. Since the RP government and the press has already capitulated then there is no need for any US basing. It my fervent hope that the RP government break all talks with the US concerning the stationing of US military assets. With all due respect, Reverend, your take on history leaves much to be desired. China encroached on RP territory, because the RP has no military forces to repel it.They saw the opportunity and took it. Weakness invites aggression.

    History has proved that. Does not your legislature allocate funding for the military? Maybe you should ask your senators and members of congress why in the last 20 years they left your country totally vulnerable??!

  5. If you have complete knowledge of what is going on in the Philippine sea, I think you will do the same as our Government are doing. They have exhausted all the process in dealing with these problems and nothings happen. The Administration only wants to scare the Chinese in order to leave the Philippine sea, that’s it.