Backgrounder Update #156
February 25, 1991
(Archived document, may contain errors)
By the end of this month, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Raul S. Manglapus will visit Washington. Both the Philippines and the United States want to conclude a new agreement for the continued American use of Philippine military bases. Formal negotiations began last September 18, but this issue has faced both countries for the past five years. Now there is little time to settle several serious issues; the current Military Bases Agreemerit (MBA) expires this September 16.
One major outstanding issue is money. For allowing the U.S. to continue using Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base for only seven years, Manila is demanding $825 million a year. The U.S. now gives the Philippines $554 million a year in economic and military aid. The U.S. offer is reported to be about $520 million a year and a lease that will run for ten years. If the Pentagon cannot plan on using Philippine bases for at least ten years, it becomes economical to invest in other bases and leave the Philippines within two to three years. Thus, if Manglapus cannot reduce significantly his demaad.-for,3825 the. Bust. Administrationshould reject it, declaring that engugh is enough and that U.S. resc C qurces in- stead Will be 1use'd'to'dev o"p'-milita"ry"fa'cilitid'S'Wltiimian'@'I'lie@smb'r'e''reliabli".tba:nMg."m:il'a.-.',' 'i . 4. 4W. ..I, I.' J.;.!j Alfloo - Coopgration. Only Own, it seem will Ma m-la @egin to realize how the world has,been chang- s ng.1hth past two years,the @Jemo`c'ratic' coalition ledby the'U.S.has' Wii-oi is'now at li" 'A" , It war against Iraq. Most U.S. allies in Asia have given both political and mat6fial'giappoitto'the coalition fighting. ltaq-.Japan- and;Korea no@v provid6 supportfor-UIS. forces based ifttheir- countzy!;Effid last rpber,.13,. Singapore agreed to alIowLLS. forces regular access to its bases. By contrast,-Manila is ir giving only political support'f6r the U.S.'action iii the Peigiah Gulf'' 6nd this dfily aftdr kr8at hesitation. Meanwhile, to avoid stirring up anti-American sentimeni iro"m t@e Plliiip"p-'ine -S .enaite and th,- Manila .-Pr4Q. theU.,S.- has-beenmuting its us6 of its Philippine:facilities as d1transit poiritto the -Petsian Gulf Privately, Pentagon officials note that if they did not have access to the. Suez Canal; .1-L.S. forces would have hod tomake heavier use of Philippine bases. f'J. 12 ..1 3,y rf L064Mi'80,pacent of the' oil consu. mied b@. the Philippinesxomes@ from tht, Middle East: Butwhffe,1-,hv_- -U.S. 4fid.cbalition forces -are defending Philippine interestsiin lhe'PersiamGul@lt seems: that jh@W. apila h&-*rffUdd, anotheugoal.1his1ainuary 9, Ar-ribassador..Richard,.Arnnta@ge,- the tchief U.S.1 negot,-ator. ht. . thiOai%-talks with Manila, -said "-Ai:Americans prepare to fight iand die in the,-Mddle,'-.East@-Fjlipi-im-. define their own victory. [in- thetbases' negotikions] -in' -t&ms of how.many: and -bow'quic]Ady U S-.J0rcp&! can be removed from their country." A Philippine spokesman immediately responded that they were trying to "shake off" the legacy of 46 years. of U.1 S.'.'.col6nial rule, which ended in 1946.
Generous Americans. For the govermnent of Philippine President Corazon Aquino, the legacy of U.S. colonial rule has been anything but onerous. The U.S. facilities pump about $1 billion annually into the Philippine economy and employ about 60,000 Filipinos. After Aquino became president in 1986, the U.S. increased by nearly 50 percent what it had pledged to give as bases-related economic and military aid from 1985 through 1989. Instead of receiving $900 million in this period, Manila got about $1.5 billion. In 1988, the U.S. prodded Japan and other countries to donate $10 billion in economic aid over five years. And in 1988 too, the U.S. increased bases-related aid to $481 million for each of the last two years of the MBA. Then in December 1989, during a military coup attempt, U.S. fighter aircraft changed the tide of battle, probably saving Aquino's government and her life. Aquino can ill afford to lose U.S. support. She is still threatened by military rebels and is still fighting an intractable, 18,000 guerrilla-strong communist insurgency. Aquino, furthermore, has delayed such crucial economic reforms as privatizing government-owned corporations and reducing bureaucratic con- trol over the economy. The Philippine economy remains in shambles. It is puzzling that America's past commitment to supporting Philippine democracy is not matched by an equal desire of the Aquino government to assist the U.S. in preserving the strategic stability in Asia that has been created in part by the presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines. Apparently, however, not all Filipinos agree with their negotiators on the bases issue. A poll last September showed that 80 per- cent favored retaining the U.S. presence. In a January 22 speech, Philippine Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos said that a "continued U.S. presence does not impair our sovereignty ... Philippine-U.S. security relations should be maintained for some time, to give us that time to develop our defense capabilities." Clear Message. When the Philippine government is ready to provide for its own defense, and over- comes its dependence on international assistance, it then may be able to contribute to a stable post- Cold War order in Asia. The U.S. can help Filipinos reach this stage if there is a new bases agreement. Such help, however, should not further burden already strapped U.S. taxpayers and it should not insult American willingness to be reasonable and generous. When Manglapus comes to Washington, the Bush Administration should have a clear message. It should: @6 Refuse to pay Manila's extortionary monetary demands in exchange for America's right to defend the Philippines; * Offer between $400 million and $500 million in annual economic and military aid as payment for use of the bases; * Tell Manila that the U.S. will withdraw its forces this year if there is no new agreement; 0 Tell Manila that Philippine economic progress depends more on free-market reform than on ever increasing amounts of aid; and 4 Offer to transfer to the Philippines modern aircraft and naval equipment to help build Philip- pine external defenses after Manila contains the communist insurgency. Even if there is a new bases agreement with the Philippines, America should seek to expand its military ties with other Southeast Asian states, like Brunei, following the model of the recent Singapore agreement. Tle Aquino government's attitude toward the U.S. during the past year reveals that Manila cannot be relied upon to provide a long-term outpost for U.S. forces.7nis, impression can begin to be revised only if the Philippines enters into a new bases agreement that is reasonable and recognizes the important contribution that the U.S. makes to Asian stability and Philippine security. Richard D. Fisher Policy Analyst