Expanded US access to Subic ‘base’ eyed
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines—Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) representatives are to meet with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials to discuss expanded access by American troops at the former US Navy base here, an SBMA official said.
Zharrex Santos, manager of SBMA’s airport department, said on Wednesday there were plans to use portions of the airport here in connection with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) but “no definite details” had been agreed upon yet.
The Subic airport has been serving as a jumpoff point for US troops participating in military exercises, he said.
Santos said the arrival of the latest batch of American troops in the free port was covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), not by the Edca.
About 100 American soldiers landed in Subic on April 23 to take part in the exercises.
“Some of them were deployed somewhere in the country and might stay for two weeks, while others stayed in the airport area to establish work stations,” Santos said.
The US Navy built the airport during the Korean War in the 1950s. It was rehabilitated in 1992 after the US Navy left Subic Naval Base.
SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said earlier that his agency, which manages the free port, supported the new agreement on the military’s use of sections of the free port “as this would strengthen national security.”
He said the new agreement had become necessary because of incidents in the West Philippine Sea, especially in Scarborough Shoal, where Filipino fishermen had been barred by Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
Garcia said the Subic Bay International Airport was being readied to accommodate a squadron of combat planes of the Philippine Air Force.
The squadron will be stationed at the former Federal Express terminal, he said.
Subic Bay also serves as the home port of the frigates BRP Alcaraz and the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the newest additions to the Philippine Navy fleet, Garcia said.
This month, Philippine and US soldiers will hold the annual Balikatan military exercises in various places in the country.
The exercises, scheduled for May 5-16, will focus on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, according to the AFP.
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