Palace rejects return of US bases


Posted at Jul 18 2012 09:15 PM | Updated as of Jul 19 2012 07:33 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Wednesday thumbed down alleged proposals to allow the return of US military bases in the country to protect Philippine territory.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the alleged proposal would violate the Constitution that prohibits foreign bases in the country. 
"The Constitution forbids the stationing or the establishment of bases in the Philippines. To establish bases in the Philippines would not be consonant to the constitutional provision," he reiterated.

The Obama administration unveiled in January a new security strategy that involves the strengthening of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific.

However, US officials have downplayed building new military bases in allied countries.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta earlier told a Singapore forum that by 2020, 60 percent of US warships, including 6 aircraft carriers, would be assigned to the Asia-Pacific region, up from the current 50 percent.

"We have a strong presence now in the Pacific, but we’ll continue to strengthen that presence over the next five to 10 years,"  Panetta said, according to a US Department of Defense transcript.

"We want to do that through a key element of our new strategy which is developing these innovative rotational exchanges and deployments that we’ve already begun to do in Australia, that we’re working on in the Philippines," he said, citing Washington's treaty alliance with Manila.

"We want to strengthen our power projection as well.  We’re going to be having a higher proportion of our forces that will be located in the Asia-Pacific," he said.

The former Clark and Subic military bases could be used as a springboard for US military forces amid America's new push in the Asia-Pacific and the backdrop of the Philippines' territorial dispute with China, a top US official has also revealed.

Admiral Jonathan Greenert, US Chief of Naval Operations, told media in a Pentagon briefing on June 27 that American and Filipino forces may hold regular surveillance flights to monitor Philippine waters.

"You've just mentioned Subic Bay. Clark Air Base, we -- we do maritime domain awareness flights monthly with the Philippine armed forces. That might be a potential (move)," he said.

Greenert said the US also has current "access to an extraordinary number of places" in the Asia-Pacific and may look to ask for repair and supplies for US ships, aircraft, and troops visiting countries such as the Philippines. - with reports from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News; Jojo Malig,