SUBIC BAY FREEPORT - The proposed air and naval military installations to be established here will not be permanent foreign bases but merely training and forward launching facilities to be operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
This was clarified by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Roberto Garcia in a briefing here amidst concerns raised by militant groups that Subic Bay will again be utilized by United States military forces.
“There is no truth that Subic Bay will again be occupied by US as its military base,” said Garcia.
He said that a 13-hectare space located at the end of the Subic Bay International Airport is all that has been allocated for the Philippine Air Force for the 12 fighter-trainer FA-50 jets to be acquired from South Korea.
In addition, the Alava Pier and Riviera Wharf here will be used by the Philippine Navy, which is transferring its major operation from Sangley Point in Cavite due to depth issues.
Garcia also added that because the proposed base will be established under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), US planes and ships are expected to call on Subic on a rotational basis.
Under EDCA, the Philippine government will allow US to build structures, store and position weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.
The SBMA chairman believes that Subic Bay is the most strategic port in the country facing the West Philippine Sea that could be used to deploy navy and air forces in case of emergencies.
He said that two more countries - Australia and Japan- have expressed interest in entering into an agreement with the Philippine government for a similar Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for the conduct of military training and exercises with the Philippine counterparts.
Garcia said that while the constitutionality of EDCA has been questioned before the Supreme Court, “It is coming to a point when you take a stand.”
He added that in the situation when a local fishing ground like the Panatag Shoal, which gives food and earnings to many Filipinos, is being intruded upon by foreign fishermen, “We have to take a stand.”
He stressed that SBMA will always cooperate with the national government in the interest of national security.
When asked if the locators might be hampered by the proposed military installations here, Garcia responded that nothing had been changed except that the locators are happy to hear of the proposal.
“Makikinabang din po kasi sila, especially those in the aircraft-related service providers, such as aircraft maintenance, fuel, catering, and others,” he said.
He also announced that among the preconditions of the agreement was that military installations should not prejudice the interest of the locators and that the priority that will be given to the military for the use of the facilities inside the Freeport would only be in time of national emergencies. (30)