Monday, August 24, 2015

Philippines to reopen Subic Bay navy base amid South China Sea tensions

Want China Times (Taiwan)
22 August 2015

Philippine defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin said recently that the Philippines is planning to build air and naval bases in Subic Bay that could be used by American forces to counter a potential Chinese threat in the South China Sea.
Subic Bay, about 80 kilometers northwest of Manila, hosted Washington's largest naval base outside the U.S. mainland until it was closed down in 1992, after the Philippines terminated an agreement with the United States at the end of the Cold War.
The shutdown ended nearly a century-long U.S. military presence in the country and the facility was converted into an economic zone, according to China's state news agency Xinhua.
Subic Bay is now the location of an industrial and commercial area known as the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
But the Philippine government has been planning to build new military facilities in recent years amid rising tensions
caused by China's development of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippines signed an expanded defense cooperation agreement with the United States last year to temporarily allow U.S. forces on to Philippine bases, including at Subic Bay, but the pact is in limbo after left-wing groups questioned its constitutionality in the Supreme Court.
Gazmin said the government would proceed with its strategy of constructing the bases even if the court eventually decides against access for U.S. troops.
The Philippines plans to build an air base capable of accommodating 200 air force personnel and to open it to civilian airplanes.
In addition, two of the 15 ports in Subic Bay will be used by the Philippine Navy and the navy will also set up a military facility in the zone.
Building air bases in Subic Bay will allow it to save at least 50% of the cost of building air bases in other areas, according to an Associated Press report.
The Philippines has scrambled to modernize its military, one of Asia's weakest. It has bought 12 new South Korean fighter jets, with the first two to be delivered later this year and stationed at Subic, Gazmin said.
China has on numerous occasions reaffirmed its sovereignty over the South China Sea, while blasting the Philippines for adopting an expansionist policy in the sea area and urging Washington not to intervene in the area, given that it is not a concerned party.

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