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Philippine government gives OK for US to use old bases, newspaper reports

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Philippine government said this week that the United States military is again welcome to use Subic Bay and the sprawling Clark Air Base, two decades after the installations were abandoned due to political friction with Manila, according to media reports.

Philippine Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta said U.S. troops, ships and aircraft can make use of the old bases, as long as prior approval is granted by the government. Azcueta made the comments following a meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who traveled to the country as part of a regional trip to generate support for a military pivot toward Asia, according to the Philippine Star newspaper.

The United States had key bases in the Philippines for decades after World War II, but relations broke down in the early 1990s, and the facilities were returned.

The announcement of an expanded military relationship this week comes after months of talks between Washington and Manila, and appears to be another step forward in the U.S. plan to bolster forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

“They can come here provided they have prior coordination from the government,” Azcueta said following the meeting at the Philippine military headquarters of Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, according to the Philippine Star newspaper. “That’s what we want … increase in exercises and interoperability.”

The United States has a 60-year-old mutual defense treaty with the Philippines and participates in annual exercises with its military. There are also roughly 500 U.S. Special Forces troops that have been advising the Philippine military in its fight against Islamic terrorist groups in the southern portion of the county since 2001.

However, it was unclear Thursday how useful the Clark and Subic bases might now be to the United States because much of the land has been privately developed over the past 20 years.

The former Navy base at Subic Bay still has an airfield that can accommodate military aircraft and also can provide a safe haven for ships during cyclones, according to the Philippine Star.

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The United States began talks with the Philippines late last year in hopes of expanding military ties.

During that time, the U.S. has struck a deal with Australia to rotate thousands of Marines through bases at Darwin, outlined a plan to forward deploy warships in Singapore, and unveiled a new agreement with Japan to realign the controversial Marine Corps presence on Okinawa.

Dempsey met with Philippine leaders this week as top U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, traveled through the region in hopes of building more support among allies for a vastly increased military presence, which will stretch in an arc across the Pacific and Asia from Hawaii to Singapore. Panetta has said the United States plans to shift military forces from a 50/50 split between the Pacific and Atlantic to a 60/40 split that will focus more on the Pacific.

In an interview this week with the Department of Defense press service, Dempsey downplayed the size of the increase in military forces, saying some countries were concerned it could spark confrontation with China.

The Philippines has been embroiled in a heated dispute with China over ownership of the Spratly Islands, a conflict that could draw in the United States due to its mutual defense treaty.

“That’s not the intent” of the Asia pivot, to challenge China or cause confrontation, Dempsey told the press service. “The intent is to increase the quality of our engagement [with allies], the quality of our relationship-building, the quality of our thinking, the quality of our leaders.”

trittent@pstripes.osd.mil

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In the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan slamming into the Philippines, relief organizations are calling on Americans to donate funds to their efforts.

UNICEF staff in the Philippines is being repositioned to provide emergency aid and the organization is gearing up to deliver supplies to children and their families. Donations can be made online or by texting RELIEF to 864233 to donate $10.

CARE teams are on the ground in the Philippines and the organization plans to provide emergency relief to thousands of families. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-800-521-CARE within the U.S. or +1-404-681-2552.

World Vision is mobilizing nearly 500 staff around the country to respond to the disaster. Donations are accepted online and the organization also lets you sponsor a child in the Philippines.

• The American Red Cross has volunteers spread throughout the region and accepts donations online. You can also mail a check to your local American Red Cross chapter designating Philippines Typhoons and Flood in the memo line.

• The U.N. World Food Programme is urging Americans to make donations to support its emergency food relief after Typhoon Haiyan. You can donate online or by texting the word AID to 27722 to donate $10.

AmeriCares is deploying medical aid and a relief team to Philippines, and says an emergency shipment with enough medical aid for 20,000 survivors is already on its way.

• The Philippine Red Cross has deployed staff and volunteers across the region. You can easily make a donation through organization's website.

• To donate to the Salvation Army's Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, visit its website or text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10 and reply YES to confirm your donation. The organization uses 100% of all disaster donations in support of disaster relief.

• Looking for someone in the Philippines area that is in your family or a friend? Google has launched a person finder for the storm, also known as Yolanda in the Philippines, where you can try and find out someone's whereabouts or enter your own information.

 - USA TODAY

 

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