Why PH visit of Kamala Harris worries Pamalakaya

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2022 04:36 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2022 08:33 PM

US Vice-President Kamala Harris tours a local village and meets with fisherfolk at Tagburos, Palawan, Nov. 22, 2022. Harris reiterated America's commitment to the Philippines in upholding international maritime rules and the Hague Tribunal's South China Sea ruling as well as expressed support to local fishermen affected by unsustainable fishing practices and threats in the West Philippine Sea. Haiyun Jiang, AFP/Pool
US Vice-President Kamala Harris tours a local village and meets with fisherfolk at Tagburos, Palawan, Nov. 22, 2022. Harris reiterated America's commitment to the Philippines in upholding international maritime rules and the Hague Tribunal's South China Sea ruling as well as expressed support to local fishermen affected by unsustainable fishing practices and threats in the West Philippine Sea. Haiyun Jiang, AFP/Pool

MANILA (UPDATE) — Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya on Wednesday expressed worries that bringing up the West Philippine Sea issue during the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris in the Philippines may result in the establishment of American military bases again in the country.

Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said Harris' visit may also anger China, prompting the Asian superpower to become more hostile in the West Philippine Sea, which forms part of the South China Sea that it claims in its near entirety.

"Ang ikinababahala namin 'yung paggamit ng issue sa dispute natin diyan sa West Philippine Sea para magpanumbalik 'yung mga base militar ng US sa ating bansa," Hicap told ANC's "Rundown".

"Isang worry din namin diyan baka mas lalong hindi ito makatulong para sa peaceful solution sa West Philippine Sea," he added.

(We are worried that the issue on the disputes in the West Philippine Sea is being used to justify the return of US military bases in our country. We are also worried that this may not contribute to a peaceful solution in the West Philippine Sea.)

The Philippine Constitution currently prohibits foreign military bases in the country.

The US military set up their naval and air presence in the Philippines in 1901 and 1903, respectively, as they took colonial control of the country, with Subic becoming the repair and supply yard of the US 7th Fleet that ruled the Pacific.

Clark became the headquarters of the 13th US Air Force.

The two bases were among the biggest employers in the Philippines for decades after World War II.
 

But the US fully closed its bases in 1992 after the Philippine Senate decided against the renewal of the two countries' 1947 Military Bases Agreement that expired in September 1991.

Nonetheless, with their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty still in effect, American troops have been allowed in the country on a rotational basis for training and some exercises with their Filipino counterparts.

The Philippine government has also granted wider access to American forces on Philippine military bases and facilities, including airfields and seaports, through the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Last week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the US is looking into constructing 5 additional joint military facilities in different parts of the country under the EDCA.

Two sites are expected to rise in Cagayan, and one each in Isabela, Zambales and Palawan. Construction of these EDCA facilities will possibly begin next year as other existing projects have yet to be completed.

The first five predetermined EDCA sites are located at Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.
 

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EDCA stalled under former president Rodrigo Duterte, but the US and the Philippines have expressed support for accelerating its implementation as China becomes increasingly assertive.

Harris on Tuesday visited Palawan to show support for her country's longtime ally and to counter Beijing's growing influence in the region.

Harris is the highest-ranking US official ever to visit the western Philippine island, the country's closest landmass to the Spratly archipelago in the hotly contested South China Sea.

Beijing continues to ignore an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims also to parts of the South China Sea.
 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse