While both governments denied any link between their recent activities and the on-going dispute with China over territory in the West Philippine Sea, United States and Philippine military forces have started joint exercises in northern Luzon. The exercises which are expected to be conducted over ten days will reportedly focus on “disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and maritime security.”
Brig. Gen. Remigio C. Valdez, the deputy commander of the Philippine armed forces, stressed that the training was not related to the territorial dispute [with China].
â€œTechnological advancement is at the heart of its goal,â€ he said.
Marines will conduct live-fire exercises, a simulated helicopter raid, a demonstration of American aircraft capabilities, disaster preparedness drills and public service activities like building classrooms and toilets in impoverished areas.
Two American vessels are currently docked at the former US naval base in Subic Bay: one of the US Navy’s most technologically-advanced ships, the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) designed for supporting special operations missions and conducting covert surveillance; and the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) whose main function is to embark, deploy and land Marine forces by helicopter and amphibious vehicles.
Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) commission head Edilberto Adan reportedly foresees “more assets, more aircraft in the Western Pacific” as part of the US’s efforts to undertake a “strategic rebalancing” of its forces.
“There are very few ports that can accommodate naval assets and naval carriers, and one of them is Subic.
“As the US begins to implement (the shift), Subic will play an important role because it is one of the important facilities that can service their presence in the Pacific.”
[Adan] said Subic could “provide the necessary port calls, port visits and servicing required by US assets, naval or aircraft”.
Interestingly, in mid-2012, left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr, in a stroke of hysterical foresight, threw a monumental tantrum over what by then had become the evident buildup of US military assets in the region. According to Reyes, â€œThe US plans to bring 60 percent of their warships to the region in the next ten years. The US also wants to make full use of their former bases in Subic and Clark. The US also plans on maintaining a rotational force in the Philippines, permanently based and in direct violation of the PH Constitutionâ€.
Even further back in early 2011, media storms were already erupting in Manila over the first signs of this buildup after reports of â€œhigh level visitsâ€ by American officials to meet with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Olongapo City officials broke the news. Back then, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Eduardo Malaya denied reports of a return of the US to Subic under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
Indeed Filipinos, their politicians, their activists, and members of other so-called “cause-oriented” groups have long failed to come to terms with the reality of the Philippines’ absolute dependence on US military assistance in dealing with both internal and external military threats. Filipinos seem to prefer keeping themselves in a state of denial over the fact of its military ineptness and instead put up a cocky attitude towards what they perceive to be foreign intervention into their sovereign affairs. Back in the early 1990s, twelve senators duly elected by the popular vote (and as such presumably representing the Filipino peopleâ€™s â€œwillâ€) voted to boot the American Military out of Philippine shores…
Thanks to the 12 bozos who voted against US military bases in the Philippines in 1991 â€” Senate President Jovito Salonga, Sens. Wigberto Tanada, Teofisto Guingona, Rene Saguisag, Victor Ziga, Sotero Laurel, Ernesto Maceda, Agapito Aquino, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, Orlando Mercado, and Aquilino Pimentel â€” Filipinos have, right in their faces today, a sad lesson twenty years in the making in what it is like to languish outside the American sphere of what is globally relevant.
Yet recent developments in the region have called for strong military response from the Philippines and heightened the imperative to forge stronger military ties with its regional allies owing to on-going naval stand-offs with China in the West Philippine Sea and the increasing belligerence of North Korea which is aggressively testing long-range launch vehicles for its growing nuclear arsenal.
Other countries are also a lot more welcoming to US armed forces. A U.S. Marine base had already been established in the Australian city of Darwin which is only 500 miles south of Indonesia. The base is expected to become home to up to 2,500 troops when it reaches full strength. For its part, Australia is planning to spend up to $100 billion on expanding its navy and air force, presumably to improve its ability to defend the booming offshore oil and gas extraction sectors of its economy.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article â€œUSS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)â€ in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
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