.. tourism projects. Holiday Inn, guest cottages and a golf course are among the early tourist amenities. Apart from these, construction of an international airport has begun and part of it will be open for daytime landing in a few months. From a virtual wasteland four years ago, Clark has also become a job center. More than 16,000 workers have been employed, half of the 32,000 base workers displaced in 1991.
The Political Effects of the U.S. Military in the Philippines All This great economic revival seems to have been downplayed by the political insecurity that the base withdrawals brought. The termination of the Military Base Agreement (MBA) devastated the bilateral security ties with the U.S. Throughout the MBA’s existence security ties have been linked to the terms of the treaty. As a result, the U.S. withdrawal forced the limelight on the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its capacity to protect the country from external as well as internal threats.
This has become the most significant concern affecting the security ties between the two countries. Form the inception of the MBA; the United States underwrote much of the security of the Philippines, clearly establishing a dependency relationship on defense. Former National Security Advisor Rafael Ileto warned that the country’s policy-makers took it for granted that someone else would always be there to defend the country. This attitude established the groundwork for the stagnation of the external defense capability of the AFP. Department of Defense and AFP officials have called attention to the weak capacity of the AFP to defend the country against external threats, including intrusions by smugglers and illegal fishermen.
Philippine Navy statistics show that between 1986 and October 1990, there were 819 incidents of illegal incursions involving 1,617 Taiwanese vessels. Only a few of these were actually apprehended. Philippine Air Force records also show that there were 231 incursions into the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ) made by non-friendly aircraft in the same period. The neglect of the external defense capability of the AFP has bred political repercussions. A fact-finding commission report showed that it was partly responsible for demoralization within the AFP and, indirectly, is one of the causes of the series of coup d’ etat that have taken place in the country. This dependency on the U.S assistance has another aspect to it.
Aside from external security, the Philippines have also relied on the United States for assistance in the development of the AFP’s internal capabilities. National concerns relating to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and recently the military renegades of the RAM-KSP focused these development efforts on the counter-insurgency and the Philippine Army. As a result of U.S. assistance, AFP gains in the field and joint negotiations diminished the threat that these groups posed. As an example, the CPP-NPA has had its regular forces reduced from 25,200 in 1987, to 13,500 by 1992, infiltrating only 18% (down from up to 26% a year before) of the barangays (local villages).
The insurgency, however, had proven resilient in the past and remains a major threat to the stability of the state. The focus on the insurgency, however, and the capability of the AFP to fight it also had its long-term consequences. The external defense capabilities of the AFP were neglected and the Philippine Navy and Air Force, the services reared for external security, amounted to almost nothing when dealing with external defense. As a result, theses two services are also the most affected by the fallout from the U.S. withdrawal.
The Philippine Navy has 21 patrol ships, 22 transport and service vessels, and about 64 small craft with an average of 41 years in service to protect the country’s 1.29 million square kilometers of territorial waters and its 1.69 million square miles of exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is the only naval force in the ASEAN region without any missile capability. Many of the Philippine Navy’s ships have limited patrol radius and are not even considered seaworthy. The termination of the MBA puts it on more uncertain footing since 28% of its operational requirements were within the bases compensation package. The Philippines Air Force (PAF) is in an even worse state, having relied on the United States for as much as 61% of its operational needs.
The PAF retired its aging F-5A fighters from service in 1992, leaving the country with virtually no air defense. Modernization plans for the AFP are being held back by financial shortages. The AFP is trying to appropriate funds for a 10-year modernization program costing US$7 billion. The program banked on American military assistance when it was initiated in 1990, but when the bases withdrew these funds were reduced drastically. The only alternative has been U.S foreign grants and loans that require the recipients provide counterpart funds.
In 1992 it was reported that as much as 63% of the PAP fund’s pledged US$5.8 Billion in 1989 and 1991 remain unused because of the unavailability of such counterpart funding. The Philippines-U.S. security relationship remains in place because of the Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951. The Philippines was guaranteed US. Military intervention if any situation arose that affected the Philippine national security .
During a 1992 Mutual Defense Meeting, Philippine and American military officials agreed that no radical change in the bilateral defense and security relationship would be made . Despite this agreement the US commitment has come under some question with the emergence of the Philippine claim to the Spratlys. The Spratly Islands is a generally uninhabited island chain covering 800,000 square kilometers of the South China Sea. It is believed to contain significant reserves of oil in addition to its rich marine resources, minerals and hydrocarbon deposits. The Philippines claims a total are of 93,000 square kilometers, which it collectively calls the Kalayaan (Freedom) Islands. The Spratlys are also claimed wholly or partly by Brunei, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Presently the dispute over the Spratlys has become the principal test of the MDT’s importance to the Philippine’s defense need. The U.S., however, believes that the Spratlys and any conflict arising from it falls outside the jurisdiction of the MDT. Morton Smith, spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy to the Philippines, said that the Kalayaan Islands are excluded from the scope of the treaty because they were not part of the country’s territory when the MDT was signed. The Philippines had only raised its claim in 1987. The United States, however refuses to take the side on the issue, and does not recognize the claim of any country on the disputed islands.
Because the U.S. does not recognize the Philippine claim it is not obliged to come to its aid in the event of armed conflict in that area. The Philippines, however, believes that the United States is bound under the MDT to come to its defense in case of an attack on territory it claims in the South China Sea. During a 1992 Senate hearing, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Roberto Romulo stated that he United states was treaty-bound to support the Philippines in the event of an attack on Philippine – claimed territory into the South China Sea. The Spratly debate is still going on today. This casts some light on the relationship between the MBA and the MDT.
Before the termination of the MBA, the U.S. military and naval presence provided the Philippines with the physical guarantee of the commitment embodied in the MDT. The U.S. pull out, however removed this physical evidence. At the same time, the weakened defense establishment of the Philippines made this commitment even more critical.
As a result the Philippine government has sought to establish a new agreement that would bring back the U.S. Military presence. The current agreement (signed by President Ramos in 1998) is the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allowing U.S. Military to conduct temporary joint exercises and training with the AFP. However, the VFA has been the topic of much controversy in current Philippine politics. In addition to the wide spread student protests, many militant nationalist groups have already warned that should the VFA be implemented all past peace negotiations with their groups are void.
The future of Philippine-American Military relations’ remains to be seen, but the certainty that these relations are vital to Philippine security, has drawn the support of the past three Presidents, Aquino, Ramos and the current day Estrada. CONCLUSION The U.S. Military presence in the Philippines has had a profound impact on Philippine politics and economy. Economically, it was thought that the U.S. pull out would have devastating effects on the already impoverished economy. However, through the quick thinking and ingenuity of the Filipino economists and Technocrats put in charge of the base conversion projects, the Philippine economy not only recovered from the initial economic crisis but also has experienced phenomenal growth. Economically, the removal of the U.S.
Bases was a step in the right direction. However, the same cannot be said about the impact the U.S. withdrawal has had on politics, especially on the issue of Philippine security. Even today, the Philippine government is plagued with the problem of internal strife against the countless rebel groups dissatisfied with the current political agenda that appears to only benefit the political elite. The great economic growth has had minimal effect on the masses of Filipino poor who flock to these groups for redemption. In addition, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have proven to be too ill equipped and trained to deal with both the internal and eternal threats to their country.
In light of this, I feel the Philippines would do well to consider agreements such as the VFA that would allow the U.S. Military to aid them while keeping Philippine soil free of U.S. Bases. If such a compromise cannot be reached there is certainly the option of building better relations with neighboring South East Asian nations, an option that, in the past, has not been fully addressed. Politics Essays.