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EDITORIAL - Possible return of the Americans

(The Freeman) - January 14, 2016 - 9:00am

It did not take long for the Philippine government to propose sites where American troops may temporarily station and military facilities may rise after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States. Among eight sites proposed, mostly existing military facilities, is the Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan.

It is not yet clear if the US will take up any or all of the offered sites, but the likelihood is strong that it would, as indeed it already is temporarily basing and conducting military-related activities in various parts of the country, in and out of existing military facilities. But if the US is to take up the offer in whole or in part, chances are the Mactan Air Base would be among them.

The air base in Mactan was in fact used by the Americans in the 1960s. It served as an American military transport depot during the Vietnam War and Cebu was among the favored rest and recreation destinations for war weary US servicemen. Before the Mactan-Cebu International Airport became an airport, it was part of the base and used to have one of the longest runways in the country as it was designed to accommodate giant cargo and transport planes the US used in its war effort.

In fact, when the Americans had to abandon Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, it was to Mactan that the Americans were evacuated because only Mactan can accommodate the giant US Air Force C-5 Galaxy and C-141 Starlifter cargo and transport aircraft that flew everything saved from Clark and Subic back home to the US.

That evacuation, called "Operation Fiery Vigil," was one of the most massive non-combat evacuation operations ever undertaken by America. It involved the evacuation of more than 20,000 personnel from Clark and Subic. Aside from the giant aircraft flown to Mactan Air Base to fly the Americans home via the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, US Navy ships also took part in the evacuation, like the nuclear-powered carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier USS Midway, and 21 other ships.

Cebu, therefore, is no stranger to American military presence. When the US still used the base in Mactan during the Vietnam War, hundreds of US servicemen would be a common site not just in Mactan but in Cebu City and neighboring areas as well. They would engage themselves in various communities through sports activities and would often be involved in medical missions and other forms of civic action, like construction.

There were social costs to their presence, of course. But Cebu in the 1960s was not into the larger politics of the time. It was still basically a quiet home to decent, hard-working people who kept to themselves and knew one another. There were still no ideologues who professe to know all the solutions to the world's ills except how to make their own lives happy. Now, with the prospect of Americans coming back, expect a little noise now that Cebu is a fully grown metropolis.

 

 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AIR AIR FORCE C ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE BASE BEFORE THE MACTAN-CEBU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT BENITO EBUEN AIR BASE BUT CEBU CLARK AND SUBIC MACTAN MACTAN AIR BASE
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