Philippines to Open Base Near Disputed Sea Even Without US
The Philippines will go ahead with a plan to open military camps at Subic Bay facing the disputed South China Sea even if a proposed American military presence doesn’t happen, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday.
Gazmin unveiled plans two years ago to open air force and navy camps at the Subic Bay Freeport so fighter jets and frigates can respond faster to any contingency in the disputed waters. The shift to Subic was decided as territorial tensions grew among China, the Philippines and four other governments.
The Philippines signed an accord last year allowing American forces to be temporarily stationed in camps including Subic, but left-wing groups have questioned the pact’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court.
Gazmin said the government will soon begin constructing the bases even if the court eventually decides against allowing American access.
“That’s a very strategic location because it’s facing the West Philippine Sea,” Gazmin said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.
Subic Bay, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Manila, used to host Washington’s largest naval base outside the American mainland until it was closed in 1992, ending nearly a century of U.S. military presence. Three years later, China seized a strategic reef also claimed by Manila, prompting Philippine senators to ratify a pact that allowed American forces to return for annual combat drills.