Sailors and Marines who served at the Subic Bay Naval Complex, Philippines, during the 60s-90s will fondly recall the above mentioned destinations, respectively: a tropical island retreat; a grungy country western bar; and Olongapo City’s main drag. After last week’s ruling by the Philippine Supreme Court, U.S. Forces could once again be stationed on Philippine soil after a two-decade absence. (Although I suspect that Grande, “the Wagon” and Magsaysay are vastly different now). Details of the Court’s ruling have yet to be ironed out, however, one thing is clear: the Philippine government needs America’s military presence to counter Communist China’s unchecked dominance in the South China Sea (SCS). China has been aggressively dredging the SCS floor and pumping those sands on to numerous reefs in an effort to “build” sovereign islands in locations currently claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Airstrip and radar facilities have already been constructed on at least one of these man-made formations. Several vital issues are at stake for the Philippine people: fishing rights currently protected under United Nations Law; claims to oil and gas exploration areas; commercial shipping lanes; and free fly-over zones for military and commercial aircraft. The Obama administration wisely expanded a Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines in 2014. Likewise, our State Department’s willingness to negotiate the return of U.S. Forces to the Philippines should be commended as well.
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