Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SPECIAL REPORT | Subic: It looks like a US base, it acts like a US base, but is it a US base?

From InterAksyon (Nov 14): SPECIAL REPORT | Subic: It looks like a US base, it acts like a US base, but is it a US base?

From his office window, Roberto Garcia watches workers repair the USS Emory S. Land, a submarine support vessel that is part of a US military buildup as Washington turns its attention to fast-growing Asia and a newly assertive China. The Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of US warships, planes and personnel since President Barack Obama announced a "pivot" in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia late last year. Washington insists the shift is not about containing China or a permanent return to military bases of the past. But it is sometimes tough to tell the difference at Subic Bay, a deepwater port near vital sea lanes and border disputes in the South China Sea that have raised tensions between China and Southeast Asian nations. "Every month we have ships coming. A few weeks ago, we had the submarines, we've had the aircraft carriers," said Garcia, chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, which oversees an economic zone built on the former US base. "They cannot find this kind of facility anywhere else in Asia." The territorial tensions and the US shift towards the region will be high on the agenda when Obama visits Southeast Asia in coming days. The Pentagon says the United States has "no intention of re-establishing bases in the Philippines." But activity in Subic, a breezy coastal city about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Manila that has the feel of a tidy American suburb with shopping malls, fast-food outlets and well-lit streets, resembles a buildup. As of October, 70 US Navy ships had passed through Subic, more than the 55 in 2011 and the 51 in 2010. The Pentagon says more than 100 US planes stop over each month at Clark, another former US base located between Manila and Subic. "It's like leasing a car as opposed to buying it - all the advantages of ownership with a reduced risk," said James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane's Defense Weekly. "If you look at Subic, the US will be leveraging Philippine bases and assets, privately owned assets, and all at a fraction of the monetary and political price of taking back ownership of the base. It gives the US the same strategic reach that basing would have done but without all the hassle.".......

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