The US bases, then and tomorrow?

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

June 15, 2014 marks the 23rd anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, considered one of the major natural disasters that the world had ever seen. Three months later, the Philippine Senate in a historic vote of 12 to 11 voted to reject the new 10-year US Bases Treaty that the Bush Administration prepared with the Philippine government headed by then President Cory Aquino. Of course the leftists and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were overjoyed that finally, the hated American imperialists were booted out of their military bases in the Philippines.

But in my book, to say that the 12 Philippine Senators is solely responsible for rejecting the new US Bases Treaty isn’t exactly the whole truth. The real truth why the Americans had to leave their US military bases in the Philippines happened three months earlier when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and sent the US military to hurriedly depart out of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base. The only thing that the 12 Senators did was stab the dead corpse of this US Bases Treaty.

For the record, I supported the continued stay of the US military bases in the Philippines for the simple reason that US military bases produce jobs for many Filipinos who are directly hired by either the US Navy or the US Air Force. Back in the old days, before the era of the Internet, we would learn about the happenings on the US military via the sidewalk stores in Avenida Rizal where I had a favorite magazine dealer who sold me my favorite Air Force magazines and the US Navy’s Proceedings magazines. That disappeared when the Yanks pulled out from Clark and Subic.

But we know well enough that the presence of US servicemen in our country had a huge negative effect on our women folk. If at all, I wanted the Americans out, it was only for this reason… that the US Servicemen exploited the poverty of our Filipino women. This was the leftist line and I also took it because I saw it all when I visited the US Naval Base in Subic and my tour guide was no less than Mayor Richard “Dick” Gordon. I wasn’t a journalist at that time, but the Avila family and the Gordon family had the same business —  moviehouses — and that is why I already knew Dick Gordon then.

So when Mt. Pinatubo blew up (I was a witness to the June 16 eruption because I just came from Dagupan City on my way back to Manila for my flight to Cebu and it was pitch dark at 3 p.m.) the Americans literally abandoned their bases in Clark and Subic and at that time, nobody knew if they would ever return because of the enormous cost of rehabilitating those bases. And, above all, no one knew when the eruptions would end.

But in my book, the biggest casualty of the Americans leaving their bases here was the Philippine military. I remember Filipino Air Force pilots would tell me that whenever they were running out of fuel, all they needed to do is land in Clark or in Subic and get free fuel for their planes. This is not to mention that they also got a lot of spare parts for the Philippine Air Force planes were mostly made in the USA. Today, the Philippine Air Force is a shell of what it used to be… it’s mostly air without a force.

So the big debate that many pundits are having in  coffeehouses of Metro Manila is whether the Aquino regime should welcome the Americans back to their bases in Clark and Subic? Of course, this means a new treaty would have to be signed. But at this point, I would rather wait until after the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections because the Philippine Senate today no longer speaks for the Filipino people because they’ve got their hands dirtied by the pork scam and worse, they removed a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because President Aquino gave them more pork funds. How these monies were given and to whom are in the Senate’s and the Department of Budget (DBM) records.

In a few short weeks, US President Barack Obama is coming for his Asian Tour and I just hope that the US President won’t “pressure” President Aquino for this new treaty because he now controls both houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. It would be disastrous for the US to have a new US Bases Treaty signed by members of the Senate that the Filipino people no longer trust.

Sure China today is threatening the Philippines but we never ever had any problem with China until President Aquino took power in Malacañang and refused to apologize to the people of Hong Kong for the Aug. 23, 2010 massacre of eight Hong Kong tourists out on holiday in the Philippines. But after the term of P-Noy, I strongly believe that out ties with China would improve vastly. As for the US Bases in the Philippines my take on this is simple. They can return to their bases here on condition that they would revive the Philippine military to its former glory.

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