Benefits of the new US bases

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Friday, May 9, 2014


A FEW days ago, it was announced that the Philippines will allow American troops access to five of its military bases under a new 10-year agreement. American aircraft, ships, vehicles and troops will be allowed to roam freely within and around the five specified AFP bases, with unlimited access to Filipino facilities. In addition, the United States has also requested access to some of its old military installations like Clark, Subic Bay and Poro Point.

This news has not been well received by leftist groups such as Bayan Muna, who claim that the Enhanced Defensive Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is worse than the old Bases Treaty of 1991. Anti-American protesters claim that “The Americans want to come here to colonize us again, to keep us poor.” In this writer’s opinion, they have no idea how wrong they are.

If one were to look at the history of American military presence in the Philippines (or the Philippine Islands – PI as the Americans call this country), one would see that they were more beneficial to us than harmful.

The famous Clark Airbase, which at its peak had a permanent population of 15,000 servicemen, contributed greatly to the economy of the surrounding area. It helped transform the neighboring Angeles City from a lazy barrio into a bustling metropolis that was designed to cater to the needs of the American servicemen who lived at Clark. In the 1980s, Clark’s SATNET was used to relay live TV broadcasts to ordinary Filipinos for the first time, and in 1984, a Youth Center akin to a YMCA was built on the grounds of the base, which opened its doors to Filipinos. Clark was also host to six schools and several community colleges, which served to provide American-style education to dependents of American servicemen – which also means their Filipino-American sons and daughters. Aside from those, Clark also gave hundreds of jobs to native Filipinos to work in all its other facilities like the movie theater, the martial arts dojo, the golf course, and the recreation center.

After 1991, when the base and its facilities were turned over to the Philippine government, Clark was transformed into the urbanized Clark Freeport Zone, because its vast tracts of land were ideal for aviation and logistics industries as well as IT companies and tourism. The old base golf course remains and is still quite popular, along with a number of casinos and retail establishments. The Clark Development Corporation has allowed foreign investment to flow into the country, generating more than P24.3 billion in investments.

Corregidor, another famous American base, was once the most enviable posting one could get in the United States Army. This was because of the good climate, its proximity to places of entertainment (again, built for Filipinos to cater to American needs) and because of the fact that it was one of the few bases in the American Far East where Filipino servants waited on its residents hand and foot. Filipinos were in charge of the cooking, cleaning, laundering and other duties at Corregidor, and once again, jobs were being offered with salaries like 10 US cents a day – which, at the time, was a lot of money. Today, Corregidor remains one of the most popular cash-generating tourist attractions of the country, generating a profit of P18 million in 2012.

In my eyes, the opening of Philippine bases to the United States will not only strengthen the economy of the Philippines, since US soldiers will inevitably start spending their dollars in neighboring towns, but it will also allow the Americans to keep a watchful eye on China’s actions in disputed waters.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 09, 2014.

Opinion

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