Why New U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines Are a Bad Idea

By Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, February 7, 2023

What Happened? 

  • On February 1, the governments of the United States and the Philippines announced the US military will have access to four new military bases in the Philippines as part of an “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement” signed in 2014.
  • Five bases that already host US troops will see $82 million in infrastructure spending.
  • Most of the new bases are likely to be in the northern Philippines close to China, Taiwan, and East Asian waters that have been the subject of growing regional disputes.

The US Already Has Too Many Bases in Asia

  • There are already at least 313 US military base sites in East Asia, according to the Pentagon’s most recent list, including in Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Australia.
  • New bases would add to a counterproductive buildup of US bases and forces in the region that is costing US taxpayers billions while undermining US and regional security.
  • New bases would further encircle China and escalate military tensions, encouraging a Chinese military reaction.
  • There are hundreds of additional bases in other parts of Asia and a total of around 750 US bases abroad located in some 80 countries and territories/colonies.

Key Takeaways

  • Expanding the US base presence in the Philippines is a wasteful and dangerous idea.
  • Doing so accelerates a major US military buildup in East Asia that is unnecessary, costly, and dangerously provocative.
  • Expanding the US military presence in the Philippines will worsen escalating military tensions between the US and China.
  • Escalating military tensions increases the risk of a military clash between the US and China and the potential for an unthinkable possibly nuclear war.
  • The US government should help lower military tensions by reversing a dangerous buildup and using diplomacy with China and others to help resolve regional disputes.
  • Expanding the US military infrastructure in the Philippines will be costly when domestic infrastructure is crumbling. A relatively small US presence could grow into a much larger and more expensive presence, as has happened frequently at US bases abroad.

A Better Approach

  • It’s not too late to choose a wiser, more secure, more cost effective path.
  • The US should stop building up its military presence in the Philippines and across East Asia. Encircling China with bases and troops continues long-outdated Cold War strategies of “deterrence” and “containment” that are not backed by evidence.
  • The US instead should invest in building up its regional diplomatic presence and efforts. One step in this direction was announcing a new embassy in the Solomon Islands.
  • The US would strengthen its physical and financial security by beginning a process to close unnecessary bases overseas while building up its diplomatic presence abroad.

Consequences from an Increased Base Presence in the Philippines

  • The US military presence in the Philippines is a hugely sensitive issue dating to US colonization of the archipelago in 1898 and a colonial war that continued until 1913.
  • The 2014 homicide conviction and controversial 2020 pardon of a US marine for choking and drowning a transgender Filipina woman reignited anger among many in the country.
  • An increased US military presence increases support for a Philippines military with a troubling human rights record.
  • The Philippines gained independence from the US in 1946 but stayed under neocolonial control, with the US military maintaining major bases and broad powers in the country.
  • After years of anti-base protest and the downfall of the US-backed Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, Filipinos forced the US to close its bases in 1991–92.
  • The Philippines still feels the effects of the former Clark and Subic Bay bases in the form of long-term environmental and attendant health damage, thousands of children born to and abandoned by US military personnel, and other harms.
  • The former bases have been converted into productive civilian uses including shopping, restaurants, entertainment, leisure activities, and a civilian airport.

Facts on US bases abroad: https://www.overseasbases.net/fact-sheet.html

Learn more: https://www.overseasbases.net

 

One Response

  1. Put the funding nd manpower into diplomacy and problem solving in the region rather than threats and death of soldiers. This can be constructive and beneficial at no greater cost than military, a d with generations of better relationships following.

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