US paid $24 million for improvements to shared military runway in Philippines
Stars and Stripes November 15, 2023
American military aircraft will operate from a newly refurbished, nearly 10,000-foot runway that reopened last week at an air base north of Manila, according to the Philippine government.
The longtime allies held a ceremony Nov. 6 that included a flyover by four Philippine FA-50PH Golden Eagle fighters to mark the opening of the $24 million runway upgrade at Basa Air Base, the government-run Philippine News Agency announced that day.
The U.S.-funded renovation is one of several projects at bases in the islands that American forces have access to under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, according to the agency.
U.S. forces can operate from nine sites in the country, including four announced in February, under the 2014 security pact.
“This is the largest [EDCA] project between Manila and Washington,” the news agency said of the runway upgrade.
The U.S. has paid for $66 million in projects at Basa, including a warehouse and fuel storage tanks, the Philippine Inquirer reported Nov. 8. The U.S. Defense Department has earmarked $35 million in fiscal year 2024 to build a transient aircraft parking apron at the base.
Basa, just south of the larger Clark Air Base on the Philippine’s main island of Luzon and the home of the Philippine Air Force’s 5th Fighter Wing, was built by U.S. forces at the start of World War II.
Basa’s improved runway ensures safer conditions for training and operations, especially during response to emergencies and calamities, the Philippine statement said.
“After less than a year of rehabilitation, with reinforced pavement and improved structural integrity, the runway is now ready to accommodate larger and heavier aircraft, such as the (Philippine Air Force) cargo planes,” the statement said.
Shared-use bases such as Basa will improve the Philippines’ security, the country’s defense secretary, Gilberto Teodoro, said in the statement.
The new runway is long enough to accommodate any aircraft operated by the U.S. military, said Grant Newsham, a retired Marine colonel and senior researcher with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.
“It’s not clear how much they’ll have in terms of support facilities or the capacity for handling and staging aircraft,” he wrote in an email Tuesday.
The base, Newsham said, “is a piece of the larger puzzle that allows high end combat operations for USAF (and other services) in the Philippines and well beyond - to include Taiwan and South China Sea.”
Airmen understand that the improved Basa runway is part of power projection, U.S. 7th Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Scott Pleus said at the opening of the Basa project, according to the Inquirer article.
“I look forward to having our forces sharing this runway, facilities and time here at the 5th Fighter Wing, to exercise together and increase our capability,” he said.
Basa is a good place to preposition weapons and equipment that might be useful in a South China Sea and/or Taiwan contingency, according to Ralph Cossa, president emeritus of the Pacific Forum think tank in Hawaii.
“The improvements make it more suitable for heavy transport aircraft to come and go,” he said in an email Wednesday.