Hagel: US not seeking to re-establish military bases in Philippines
A Filipino father and son watch the guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin get under way after participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Philippines (CARAT) exercise in October, 2010.
MANILA — The United States is not seeking to re-establish permanent military bases in the Philippines even as it works to strengthen its presence in Asia, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.
The Philippines used to host the largest overseas US air and naval bases, but the facilities were shut down more than two decades ago.
“The US does not seek permanent bases in the Philippines,” Hagel told reporters in Manila after meeting with President Benigno Aquino. "That would represent a return to an outdated, Cold War mentality."
“Instead we are using a new model of military-to-military cooperation, befitting two great allies and friends,” he said.
Hagel said an agreement being negotiated by Washington and Manila on the increased US presence in the Philippines would benefit both armed forces and support Aquino’s efforts to build a stronger external defense amid territorial disputes with China.
Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Subic Bay, the site of the former US naval base in the country, would be one of the locations US forces would have greater access to under the agreement.
“As soon as the framework agreement is complete, we will provide the necessary access to all these facilities,” he said. “This is not limited only to Subic, but to Philippine military facilities if necessary.”
Subic Bay has been transformed into an industrial and commercial hub since the American troops left in 1992.
It is near one of the disputed areas in the South China Sea where a standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels last year triggered a diplomatic row that led Manila to seek arbitration before the United Nations.
Besides China and the Philippines, other countries with overlapping claims in the South China Sea are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.