Subic readied for enhanced US access

by Henry Omaga-Diaz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 12 2014 08:32 PM | Updated as of May 13 2014 05:08 AM

MANILA - Authorities have identified where to build the Philippine Naval Operations Base in Subic, where new US facilities or structures will rise under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by Philippine and US officials on April 28.

Preparations inside and outside Subic town have started for the new military camp.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Administration (SBMA) Chairman Roberto Garcia, the Philippine Air Force will build a facility inside the SBMA airport that can also be used by American aircraft in accordance with the EDCA.

"Gusto ko lang liwanagin, these will be Philippine bases po. Kung dumating ang Amerikano, atsaka magbi-build sila ng infrastructure, they [US troops] will work together with the Philippine Navy and the SBMA," Garcia said.

"Ang pagkakaalam ko, ang infrastructure na ipatatayo nila, iyung warehouses po," he added.

Today, US Navy boats can be seen docked at SBMA.

Garcia said the Philippine Navy will likewise build its own facility where American naval ships can come and go.

"In fact, noong nagpunta si Ambassador [Philip] Goldberg dito, naituro ko iyang pier na iyan," he said.

According to Garcia, SBMA and US officials have started ironing out construction details of the site.

They find Subic as an almost perfect site in the wake of China’s persistence to claim the Spratlys. It is near Scarborough Shoal, one of the disputed shoals in the West Philippine Sea.

Under EDCA, the US can build its own facilities inside any Philippine military camp.

In Subic town, Mayor Jay Konghun admitted that the site for the new Philippine Naval Operating Base that will be used by the Americans has long been known to them.

Beside the 500-hectare Subic Bay shall stand the new Philippine naval base.

Construction will begin soon because money is available from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization fund.

"There are initial talks between the Philippine Navy, local government of Subic regarding the infrastructure and development that the base will create here," Konghun said.

"They will build warehouses dito. Gagawa sila ng pier na kung saan iyung barko ng Philippine Navy at [under the] Visiting Forces Agreement, barko ng Amerikano," he added.

But Mayor Konghun says the Philippine Navy will own and run the site, and that American forces will only be its guest.

While preparations for a military base inside Subic are underway, similar preparations are also taking place outside Subic and in Olongapo City.

Businessmen and residents have started putting up recreations centers for expected arrival of the Americans.