U.S. military bases are a danger to the Philippines

by Fr. Shay Cullen

A prototype of the land-based ground-launched Long Range Hypersonic Weapon | Photo by Spc. Karleshia Gater/U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons

If the Ukraine war has taught us anything, it is that any future military conflict, especially in the South China Sea, the West Philippine Sea, or the Straits of Taiwan, will be a war primarily fought with short- and long-range missiles, even hyper-sonic missiles, together with all internet systems being disrupted by cyber-warfare.

The growing tension in the Asia-Pacific region with the Philippines at the center makes it time for Filipinos to start to worry about the possible war over Taiwan that would rain down Chinese missile strikes on any of the U.S. bases, now or in the future, in the Batanes Islands, Cagayan, Basa Air Base or nearby Clark, Subic Bay and parts of Mindanao and Palawan.

Last January 31, 2023, The Manila Times reported as follows. “A four-star U.S. Air Force general has warned of a conflict with China as early as 2025 — most likely over Taiwan — and urged his commanders to push their units to achieve maximum operational battle readiness this year. In an internal memorandum that first emerged on social media on Friday, later confirmed as genuine by the Pentagon, the head of the Air Mobility Command, Gen. Mike Minihan, said the main goal should be to deter “and if required, defeat” China.

So, suppose there is a major conflict here. In that case, it will be over Taiwan and most certainly not over the Philippine atolls and sand banks taken and occupied by China from the Philippines and the few tons of fish stolen daily from Philippine waters.

Taiwan is a small, democratic, independent state with a Taiwanese population of 24 million as of 2020 and 150,000 to 200,000 Filipinos living there. It is just 200 miles north of the Philippines. China claims it as part of its sovereign territory. China has declared in recent years that it wants Taiwan back under Beijing’s communist control, even with the use of force.

Shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the Island state in August 2020 in a show of U.S. solidarity; China unleashed a mighty military show of force in protest with fly-bys and threats of invasion. Much of that may only be bluster, but in fact, Xi Jinping, the militant-minded leader in Beijing, is determined to get it back. Much like Putin, President Xi Jinping has grandiose imperialistic ambitions, fueled by a desire to go down in history as the leader that won back what China calls its rebel province.

According to some analysts, the missile war will likely be won by those with the most effective and accurate hypersonic missiles launched from the air or those forces with multiple, widely dispersed missile launch sites on land and ships that are too many to be attacked and overwhelmed simultaneously.

The recent agreements between the United States and the Philippine government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. seem to be paving the way for this kind of strategy in the Philippines. There are already many U.S. marine missile bases dispersed or will be, throughout the strategically located Japanese Senkaku Islands, 170 kilometers from Taiwan and 330 kilometers from China. The marines from Okinawa are being re-trained, re-armed, and re-deployed in small fighting forces without massive tanks and heavy armor, much to the disgust of traditionalist retired military officers.

The Philippines is fast becoming one huge U.S. military base scattered into a dozen of its parts. The U.S. will likely deploy them here, together with patriot anti-air missiles. Instead, they will be armed with multiple missile capacities like the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which is super effective in Ukraine and accurate.

It seems that the plan of the military alliance between the United States, Australia, and the U.K., known as AUKUS, is to surround China with a steel chain of island fortresses bristling with multiple missile sites, too many to be suppressed by counterattack, but that can subdue the Chinese navy and strike its land-based launch sites if ever it comes to all-out conflict and an attempt by China to invade Taiwan.

“The U.S. military presence in the West Philippine Sea has not deterred China from grabbing more atolls and islands from the Philippines and arming them with missiles. The Mutual Defence Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines is no help. There has to be an act of war by China against the Philippines to trigger a U.S. military response.”

The AUKUS nations are developing hypersonic missiles to counter the technological sophistication of China’s missile strike force. Hypersonic missiles are deadly and hard to detect because of their speed (Mach 5) and maneuverability. The AUKUS missile bases in the Philippines and the Japanese Senkaku islands could devastate Chinese ships trying to make troop landings in Taiwan.

This huge, growing U.S. presence in the Philippines, located inside Philippine military installations, is covered by the fig leaf of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that shields the U.S. from criticism it is violating Philippine sovereignty by already having regular use of Basa Air Base in Floridablanca town in Pampanga; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; Benito Ebuen Air Base on Mactan island in Cebu; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City in northern Mindanao and an army jungle training base in Fort Laur, Nueva Ecija, and other unknown secret bases. Subic Bay and San Miguel Base in Zambales are next for U.S. occupation.

When the U.S. occupies the Philippine air force base in Lal-lo, Cagayan, in the north, it will have an easy strike distance to Taiwan in the event of an invasion of Taiwan by China. Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the U.S. air force has flown surveillance planes in and out of Clark for several years. However, it is not just occasional visiting; the planes are on regular military operations from a civilian airport. All is done with a nod and a wink from the Philippine higher command; permission is always granted permanently.

Besides, the U.S. military has unlimited access to other areas for its training and testing of weapons. It tested its M142 High Mobility Artillery rocket launchers in Crow Valley in Tarlac and has the use of the Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Tarlac and practically any other harbor or airfield it wants to use for so-called “visiting.” The U.S. used the Batanes Island airfield for re-fuelling its planes for years. It used helicopters to light up the runway until landing lights were installed.

Subic Bay has been used for docking U.S. Navy ships and loading supplies. Now, with a U.S. company, Cerberus Capital Management, owning the former Hanjin shipyard in Subic Bay, we can expect more U.S. ships to be based there, like the USS New Orleans. For sure, Chinese missiles installed on the seized Philippine atolls are now aimed at Subic Bay and San Miguel Base, Zambales. The bay has recently been named a Philippine Navy base, conveniently situated in part of the former Hanjin shipyard. That is another fig leaf to justify U.S. warships docking at Subic Bay.

The U.S. military presence in the West Philippine Sea has not deterred China from grabbing more atolls and islands from the Philippines and arming them with missiles. The Mutual Defence Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines is no help. There has to be an act of war by China against the Philippines to trigger a U.S. military response. Any response will need the approval of the U.S. Congress. Many U.S. military bases inside Philippine bases make the Philippines an open and vulnerable target for retaliatory strikes by China.

The deployment of so many U.S. servicemen in military bases all over the Philippines will speed up the expansion of the sex industry and, once again, we will see more human trafficking and sexual abuse, and exploitation of women and children by U.S. servicemen as if we don’t have enough by Filipinos at present as in the past.

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