• Short Summary

    Further progress has been made between the United States and the Philippines in an effort to each a new military bases agreement.

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    Further progress has been made between the United States and the Philippines in an effort to each a new military bases agreement. Two days of intensive talks ended in Manila on Tuesday (10 January) with both sides agreeing to resume discussions through the US Ambassador to the Philippines David Newsom.

    The talks, which were first started early in 1976, were suspended for a time during the changeover from the Ford to the Carter administration in the US.

    SYNOPSIS: US Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs, Richard Holbrooke, headed the American team which met with Philippines President Marcos.

    Details of the closed-door discussions on arrangements to govern future American use of the bases were not disclosed. Although identical statement by both sides announced that the talks were intensive and fruitful, some tough bargaining was said to have gone on.

    Mr Holbrooke said he would be reporting back to President Carter on the progress of the talks. (SEQ 1-6)
    One of the bases at stake is the giant Clarke Air Force compound near Manila. Clarke, together with the massive Seventh Fleet Base at Subic Pay and some important communications stations, form a vital part of America's defense posture in the Pacific and sough East Asia. The two bases are America's last major military installations n the region.

    During the Vietnam War, Clark Air Base was the nerve centre for the devastating American B-52 air strikes on Hanoi and Haiphong. Its a point which still worries Vietnamese leaders. The latest discussions between the Philippines and the US were somewhat complicated by the presence in Manila of the Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Trinh, who made it clear to President Marcos that Vietnam expected the Philippines to abide by previously stated principles and eliminate the bases.

    Clark Air Base is the headquarters of the US 13th Air Force. Covering an area of 130,000 acres at an estimated value of 166 million US dollars, Clarke is the largest US military installation outside the United States.

    At any one time, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 servicemen and officers on the base as well as 15,000 dependents and up to 41,000 Filipino employees and contract workers.

    Although Clark is a vital link in the American military blueprint it is according to a Senate staff report, expendable. The chances of US air power being used on mainland Asia now seem slim and the United States feels no commitment to Thailand and Malaysia.

    In anycase Guam, further to the east could provide a suitable alternative home for the US 13th Air Force.

    The current base agreement dates back to March 1947 less than a year after Philippines independence from the United States. It gave the Americans control of the bases.....rent free fro 99 years. In 1966, the two countries decided the agreement would remain in force until 1991, after which it could be terminated after a year's notice by either side.

    But all that went by the board when President Marcos imposed martial law in 1972 and embarked upon his New Society programme.

    Since then, an effort has been made to make the Philippines less dependent on the United States and more allied with the developing countries in the region.

    President Marcos is now insisting that operating conditions of the current agreement be changed to give full recognition to Philippines sovereignty.

    He also wants substantial rent for the bases and the term of the treaty shortened to 1985 (SEQ 7-11)
    Like the newly negotiated Panama canal Treaty, the main stumbling block still, is over how sovereignty should be transferred. The Philippines is insisting that its commanders and flags be allowed on the bases now. It also seeks clearer rules on legal jurisdiction over US servicemen on the bases. Under an extra territoriality clause the servicemen have been exempted from the full force of Filipino law. One American is currently in US custody at Subic Bay charged with murdering a Filipino woman.

    Looking from the sidelines see what happens next is Peking, who consider the bases as an important counter to Soviet naval power in Asia waters.

    Other countries in the non-communist association of Sough East Asian Nations, which includes Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia would also be extremely reluctant to see the Americans pull out.

    Even when an agreement is eventually reached, problems ahead could kill it ultimately. Any treaty will have to be ratified by the US Senate. And with President Carter's strong stand on Human rights violations, the Senate is likely to take its time and carefully review the Marcos record. The treaty would in anycase have to wait until passage of the Panama Canal Treaty and a new agreement with the Soviet Union on strategic arms limitation.

    In the meantime, President Marcos has been content to tell visiting American businessmen of his plans for the bases. He said he government is planning to use part of Subic Bay Naval Base as a civilian ship-building and repair facility capable of handling up to 300,000 tons.

    Most diplomatic observers feel that despite progress being slow moving, negotiations could be completed before the end to this year. (SEQ 8-15)

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