Pentagon Wants Increased Access to Philippines

Twenty years after the American military left the Philippines, the Pentagon wants back in the former U.S. colony.

Yup, this whole strategic shift to Asia means that the DoD faces the prospect of fighting from a limited number of bases in the Western Pacific; think Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea, oh, and the Marines relatively tiny new base in Australia.

The problem with this, defense planing-types worry, is that China’s new generation of long range ballistic missiles can take out this handful of bases with relative ease.  The solution, create a network of dispersal bases at old World War Two and Cold War facilities that are scattered throughout the islands of the Pacific. American planes, ships and troops could deploy to these bare bones facilities during times of heightened tension, making it harder for an enemy to knock out U.S.  troop concentrations and facilities.

(Yes, there’s been a limited U.S. presence in the southern Philippines aimed at helping the local government defeat Islamic terrorists but this sounds bigger than that.)

News that the Pentagon wants more access to Philippine ports and airfields seems to reflect this thinking. The DoD doesn’t want to build new permanent bases, but it does want to guarantee that its planes and ships have access to Philippine airfields and ports for training, refuling, resupply and repairs, according to Rueters.

The Pentagon also wants to base a small number of P-3 Orion spy planes in the Philippines and transfer more weapons to the island nation which is growing  concerned with China’s expanding military presence in the oil-rich South China Sea.

Keep in mind, this comes just after Pentagon officials revealed during their 2013 budget briefing press conference that the Navy will be basing Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore; the tiny yet powerful state that was known as the Gibraltar of the East due to its strategic location at the end of the Strait of Malacca, one of the worlds most important shipping lanes.

Here’s what the Reuters article has to say:

“It’s access, not bases,” a foreign affairs department official familiar with the strategic dialogue told Reuters.

“Our talks focus on strengthening cooperation on military and non-military activities, such as disaster response and humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation. There were no discussions about new U.S. bases,” he said.

These activities would allow the U.S. military more access in the Philippines, stretching its presence beyond local military facilities and training grounds into central Cebu province or to Batanes island near the northern borders with Taiwan.

U.S. ships and aircraft are seeking access for re-supply, re-fueling and repairs, not just for goodwill visits, exercises and training activities, the diplomat said.

The Philippines was ruled by the United States for nearly five decades between the departure of the Spanish and the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, and is now one of its foremost allies in Asia, despite expelling the U.S. from its former military bases at Clark and Subic Bay in 1992.

Since 1987, the Philippine constitution has explicitly banned a permanent foreign military presence. But Washington maintains close military ties under a 1951 defense treaty, and its special forces have been helping the Philippine military combat Islamic militants in the south of the country since 2002.

A Filipino diplomat said Washington’s expanding presence is allowed under the under a 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement and a 2002 Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.



  • WooHoo

    Is the “Fire Empire” still there???

    • passingby

      For now, the American Empire is the only empire allowed. Any challenger will face strategic encirclement and covert sabotage, followed by military invasion.

    • Scott

      I love you $hit - GI……

  • Jay

    This makes complete sense. Its a good move and as long as there are countries that will let us transfer supplies and aircraft to those locations lieu of an attack on our current bases it will make the retaliation easier.

    Good thinking Pentagon.

    America (and its Allies) = Winning against China

  • MAJ

    Junior enlisted all over the world applaud the decision to move away from islamist crapholes to forward bases with a good supply of quality hookers.

    • moose

      “Remember to wear your Rubbers” sign sales up 1000%

    • jesse88

      this is an insenitive post…

    • TinkersDam

      Senior enlisted appluad it, too. It’s hard to count the number of old AF and Navy SNCOs who sigh whistfully at the memory of the Phillipines.

  • jrexilius

    This is a smart move and a good development. Making friends and influencing people, that’s the name of the game.

  • Black Owl

    Instead of putting money into weapons and moving hardware into the area I think that we should focus our efforts more on the economic war that we are waging with China.

  • blight

    Back to Subic Bay and Clark AFB? Heh. And Wheelus (now an airport in Libya)…

    Suddenly things are starting to feel very retro.

  • dddd

    At the risk of trolling here, let me just say that the claim that Obama administration exercises a “weak” foreign policy holds less water by the day: an excellent political/military balancing act against China; installing the foundations of a comprehensive ballistic missile defense network in Europe, right in Russia’s face; isolating Iran to an unprecedented extent; expanding our military presence in East and Central Africa; reinforcing military ties with virtually every Gulf country in a balancing act against Iran; signing civil nuclear deals with an increasing number of partners; etc. Obama’s FP isn’t the best, but it ain’t bad under the circumstances.

    • Vince Purchase

      Couldnt agree more. Plus under Obama we got Bin Laden, Ghadaffi, and An Awalaki without committing to new massive land campaigns.

      • blight

        And without the land campaigns, we’ll probably get the same results. Blood on the streets and the best-organized religious groups taking power. Bummer.

        • dddd

          The Islamists were always going to win the first elections. The second and third ones (if they even happen)? Probably not. If groups like the Muslim Brotherhood adapt to the responsibility of government, somewhat like Ennahda in Tunisia, then that is a good thing, regardless of their ideology. If they don’t deliver the services, then the more liberal parties will be in a prime position to win majorities.

          • Yellow Devil

            Who’s to say there will be more elections after the first one? The problem with these Islamists and Communists is that they will hold the first election/revolution to get their guys in and than liquidate the rest of the process. (see: Czechoslovakia or Iran). At least the autocratic nations with our backing eventually open up (see South Korea or Taiwan) lest they politically collapse.

      • dddd

        And a dozen senior AQ leaders.

    • tiger

      His foreign policy is mix bag at best. Our Allies get unloved, while our foes get hugs. Israel: relations bad. The G-7: generally goes 180 degrees from anything he does. Iran: Still kicking the can down the road. Syria: Please… North korea: HA HA. Japan: still can’t get a deal for Okinawa. As a Nobel peace prize winner he started a war in Libya vs a guy who really was a threat to nobody. Egypt: Still shaky. Iraq: messed up a base deal so we left. Canada: Killed pipeline deal. Mexico: Total mess.

  • chaos0xomega

    I think a lot of airmen, sailors, soldiers, and marines would be pleased to see Clark AFB re-opened if that happens to be in the cars. And if its not re-opened permanently, then at the very least rebuild it and have it ready, it was indispensable to us as a medical treatment facility and a point of departure during Vietnam, i can see similar utility for it if things go south with China.

  • Nicky

    Here’s my question, how come the US doesn’t fix up Wake Island and Midway Atoll and use them as emergency staging bases in case war heats up with China. On the plus side, those Island can be a perfect staging outpost for the US Military to use as a Refuel and Refit bases for ships and Aircraft as well.

    • MAJ

      No hookers on Wake or Midway. I find your plan untenable

    • Vince Purchase

      I would say a lot of that has to do with the fact that Midway and Wake simply aren’t large enough to support massive logistical bases. Wake especially

    • STemplar

      Wake still is used to a certain degree. Midway is a park more or less.

      • Nicky

        Maybe we can reactivate and use Wake as a logistics base and even as a emergency Airfield for the US Military. Also make Wake island and Midway Atoll a Ship repair and refit facility. Even the US Coast Guard can use those places as Staging islands for their operations. They don’t have to man them all the time, they can have them for staging planes and use to stage patrol boats like the LCS, Corvettes or Coast Guard Cutters on Wake Island and Midway Island.

      • Nicky

        Here’s Info on Wake Island and Midway Atoll
        Wake Island

        Midway Atoll

    • passingby

      Possible reasons: (1) cost too much build infrastructure there; (2) better make the Philippines govt pay for some or all of the expenses in exchange for the illusion that the US will fight China on its behalf; (3) the Philippines has a large population that can be mobilized to fight China and die without risking any political capital back home, as otherwise would be the case when US soldiers die en masse like in Korea and Vietnam; (4) easier to manufacture conflicts and then sell weapons for fat profits; (5) in the event of a nuclear exchange with China or Russia, fewer nuclear ICBMs will be allocated for bombing US proper in order to bomb the Philippines (and Australia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, … other countries with US bases) …

    • tiger

      By the same token, we have real estate in up north in the Aleutian chain. Over all I think These moves are due to failure to make a deal on Okinawa. The “Yankee go home” calls have finally one over there.

      • Riceball

        Won, not one. One is a number while won is the past tense of win.

    • Jay

      The islands are the same size as our aircraft carriers (exaggeration). They may be used as emergency bases but there isn’t really a point. They are so banged up now.

  • Pat


  • Lance

    Great idea. Besides it would be better to have a couple of permanent bases with corrupt Philippine leaders wanting more money they can undo there constitutional ban. A air base in Palawan and a navy and air base on Luzon and or a air base on Mindino would be perfect for deterrence against China or Vietnam.

  • Citizen of the world

    “I figure if a host country wants to deny access they can and it wouldn’t be a very good position to have a base anyways.”

    When we have a base, it seems much harder to deny access. Consider Cuba and Guantanamo.

    “And if one wish’s to flip side’s like Italy did in WWII then I think that says enough about a supposed ally.”

    I don’t see how that will help us win the war. Will our justified outrage be used as a staging area?

    • Citizen of the world

      Sorry, I screwed up the posting. Don’t reply here, reply in the thread above.

      • plao

        you’re a screwball

  • james lewis

    strategic thinking, Cam Ranh Bay Viet Nam. great anchorage beautiful beaches, anyone remember China Beach?, I do besides Viet Nam and China are ancient enemies and strategic location. besides who would want to be in an Islamic Crap hole like the middle east, George Patton said it best, a soldier who can’t screw wont fight

    • itfunk

      You are talking to the wrong people - many of the military are there because they cant compete in the American domestic market let alone with China.

      • passingby

        well said.

        others are brainwashed fools who think they are defending “freedom” or “democracy” when they are illegally invading other countries and killing innocent civilians at the bidding of the US military industrial complex - the biggest death merchants syndicate.

        • orly?

          The millions of Soviet made AKs disagree with you

  • roger

    We’ve had a semi-secret presence at Clark for several years, with dozens of contractors living there. Its a good idea to get some forces out of Okinawa, where they are not wanted nor needed. has a scathing article about Marine Generals fighting to keep their Okinawan resorts rather than preparing for future wars.

    • orly?

      Look at the stinking map, Japan based presence is critical to the entire region.

      • roger

        Read the stinking article. It points out that Marines are not needed there. Only 4000 are combat troops, and that tiny force is no player in the region, except to upset the Okinawas. Pull half of them to keep Kadena safe.

  • bob

    You really think China wants to attack us and kill our “Freedom” when more than half their population still live in poverty?

    This is why America is never going to grow, stop with the war mongering policies and start SELLING TO CHINA.

    Want to win against them? Play their game.

    • Joe Boyum


    • blight_

      What should we sell? Next-gen sequencers? GE’s turbines? PW turbines? Solar panels? Nuclear power plants?

    • blight_

      Trading our technological crown jewels for consumer crap already R&D’ed here doesn’t seem like a good trade. What can we build and sell here for a low price, but not too low that the labor force isn’t treated as sweatshop labor?

      • oslo

        3d printing will take care of that but in the next couple of decades yet

      • lths

        how bout all the oil from the liposuction done on countless obese americans

  • itfunk

    Asian counties that align themselves with China are facing 50 years of continuous growth and investment. Most of the debate in Asia these days is about how to stop the Americans from screwing that up.

    As a Singaporean said to me look what they did to the Middle East, we don’t want that to happen to us.

    It’s ironic how the roles have flipped - China trade has become the economic driving force in the region while at the same time the strategy is to keep America passive through limited engagement.

  • RCDC

    Farewell … his liberty to speak and act as he sees fit, subject only to provisions that he …. I would say a preventive war, if the words mean anything, is to wage some sort of …. This we do know: a world that begins to witness the rebirth of trust among …
    -Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Guest

    Philippines, huh? Before the Americans left, the Philippines enjoyed around US$35B of military aid. After the Americans left the Philippines were getting US$350 mil per year in equipment, weapons and spare parts. Most of the weapons are sold by the soldiers, officers and corrupt politicians to the Muslim rebel groups in the south. Funny, but this sound eerily familiar.

  • orly?

    “The problem with this, defense planing-types worry, is that China’s new generation of long range ballistic missiles can take out this handful of bases with relative ease.” - Article

    LIke I’ve been saying for awhile now….

  • PolicyWonk

    W/r/t having troops/assets within missile range, thats hardly a deterrent. After all, our servicemen/women spent a lot of time living with that scenario when stationed in Europe (etc). We have our boomers swimming around the Pacific 24/7/365, and plenty of other options. And regarding China’s “carrier killer” ballistic missiles, we should’ve already used the same line on the Chinese that the Russians used on the Bush Administration when they wanted to put conventional warheads on ICBM’s for “quick-strike” capability:

    If we detect that you launched a ballistic missile without informing us first, we will assume it is a nuclear strike and we will retaliate accordingly.

    All of a sudden, even the Bush Administrations biggest hawks decided it was a lousy idea.

  • DCpolicywonk

    I think you are downplaying the US presence in Australia. In addition to the new small presence in Darwin, there are full time intel operations on the NW Cape (Exmouth) and in Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. The US makes heavy use of Garden Island for its subs, regularly visits Australian ports, and does regular war game training with Australian forces. Essentially, the US has a reliable and friendly ally willing to grant access to the many bases across the continent. This is a very useful asset for both the US and Australia.

  • Oudin

    I think Subic and Clarck reopen again.

  • Oudin

    I think Subic and Clarck AFB reopen again to encircle China, to maintance American imperium.

    • oudinidiot

      how bout china imperium?

  • Joe Boyum

    Conflict and international relations is not always a zero sum game. Also a military does not need a constant enemy in order to function. If you want to confront the chinese, surrounding them in the pacific is not the way to go. Beat them in africa, and they will not have access to the cheap raw materials and growing markets for their crap goods.

    all warfare is based on deception…so deceive the enemy not yourself about the nature of conflict.

  • Papi1960R

    Interesting article. Not one mention of the Phillipines Governments view on this. We assume that they want the American cash cow, but the party that asked us to leave is still in power. As for confronting China? With 7% of our national debt now resting in Treasury Bonds held by China, which have already reached maturity, they could crush us (economically, politically and militarily) with just a couple of taps on the computer keyboards at their banks. The current European debt crisis started when .08% of Greek bonds were called by creditors.

  • itfunk

    >Not one mention of the Phillipines Governments view on this.

    Yea hilarious because the Philippines government has already said no.

    The attitude in Asia these days is that containing America is the problem. The Chinese turn up with cash and business opportunities. While we turn up broke trying to create conflict.

  • Jason B

    Access, not bases is a smart move.

  • Joen

    Bases won’t happen, it’s in the Philippine constitution. Give them equipment, Fighters, missiles and ships instead because it’s virtually non-existent there. Besides, stationing US troops isn’t a popular idea in both countries anyway.

  • Kim Taylor

    My father, a US Navy veteran (he passed away in 1992) was very vocal about the China threat. He always said that worrying about Russia was a waste of time, and that we should be worrying more about communist China and it’s one billion citizens. The day is comng when there is little to no room for more Chinese citizens in mainland China and they will decide to add to their territory by force. They already believe that they are an equal to the United States militarily, and the day will come when they actually believe that they can defeat the United States. We must be proactive now, not when it is too late.

  • Joe Morato

    This the best news I have ever heard so far, Yeeeeeeey! Let’s get this done pronto!

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  • Bikini Philippines

    I must admit American soldiers do know how to behave. No more fist fights like in the old days.