By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The docking of the USS North Carolina (SSN77) at Subic Bay, May 13, appears to be a sign that the issue of US military bases and the concomitant presence of US military troops has gone full circle. The submarine is being touted as “one of the stealthiest, most technologically advanced submarines in the world. It brings to the region the capability to conduct the full spectrum of potential submarine missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and mine warfare.”
The article today May 15 published by Interaksyon described the submarine as “nuclear-powered.” What it failed to mention is that being one of the newest class of submarines of the US Navy and with its described capabilities, it is, without doubt, nuclear-armed. This is a clear violation of the Philippine Constitution, which declares a policy of “freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”
However, the Aquino government is silent about it.
Also the declared purpose why the US submarine docked here, which is for “routine ship replenishment,” coupled with the rest and recreation of US Navy personnel in the country, is reminiscent of the time when the US Subic Naval Base was still in existence. And this is not an isolated incident.
While the docking of US Navy warships, carriers, and submarines come far in-between before such as the USS Georgia in 2009, the USS Essex, USS Denver, and USS Harpers in 2010, the USS Carl Vinson in 2011, and recently, the USS North Carolina, the same might not be true in the near future as the US declared its intent to refocus its military presence toward the Asia-Pacific region and with Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III begging the US to increase its military presence in the country.
The US may not reestablish permanent military bases in the country. But it has already come up with a cheaper arrangement. It has access to all ports, facilities, and military camps that it needs through the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement that it entered into with the Philippine government in 2002; it can station troops on a “semi-permanent” basis through the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999 and through more frequent (actually non-stop) US-RP Balikatan joint military exercises, training and combat support.
When the Senate rejected the US-RP military bases agreement in September 1991 – due to the pressure from the people led by progressive groups and the arrogance of US chief negotiator Richard Amitage – the Filipino people won a battle for sovereignty. This victory was won by the people despite the active campaigning of the late president Corazon Aquino for the retention of the US military bases.
But now, this victory is being reversed by the second Aquino government under the pretext of securing the Philippines against a possible attack by China due to the conflicting claims over Scarborough Shoal and parts of the Spratly Islands. Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino provided the US with the excuse, to which the latter gladly obliged.
Opinion polls conducted by media agencies show that most Filipino prefer a diplomatic settlement of the conflicting claims between the Philippines and China. But, despite his pronouncements on the contrary, President Aquino appears to have chosen a subaltern’s way: beg the US for protection while trying to brag to China that big brother is on its side. What a waste of the historical 1991 victory of the Filipino people in the battle for the country’s sovereignty.