American troops, warships and aircraft can once again use their former naval and air facilities in Subic, Zambales and in Clark Field in Pampanga as long as they have prior clearance from the Philippine government, a senior defense official said.
“They can come here provided they have prior coordination from the government,” Defense Undersecretary for defense affairs Honorio Azcueta told reporters after his meeting with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.
Coming straight from the just-concluded three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Dempsey was in the country the other day for a follow-up meeting with senior defense and military officials.
Azcueta pointed out that a shift of US security focus toward the Asia-Pacific region is expected to increase with more military engagements between the two long-time allies.
Earlier, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the US is increasing the deployment of its naval presence in the region, without necessarily establishing permanent military bases in any country in the region.
Asked if US troops as well as their warships and fighter planes would be allowed access to their former naval base in Subic, Azcueta said yes.
“That’s what we want… increase in exercises and interoperability,” Azcueta said.
Aside from offering a safe haven for ships due to its
secured location from cyclones, the former US naval base in Subic has an airfield that can accommodate civilian and military planes.
During the Vietnam war in the 1970s, Subic Naval Base, especially its airfield, was used by the US military as staging point of all its major air operations against the Vietcong.
However, in 1992 Subic Naval Base and the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, the two biggest US military bases outside mainland America, were shut down after the Philippine Senate rejected an extension of their presence in the country.