US Seeks Growing Military Presence in Philippines

July 13th, 2013 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & Floyd Whaley / The New York Times & Jason Ditz / The Huffington Post – 2013-07-13 01:12:55

US Seeks Growing Military Presence in Philippines

Pushes ‘China Threat’ as Justification for More Troops
Jason Ditz /

(July 12, 2013) — The Obama Administration is in the process of finalizing an agreement allowing an increased deployment of US troops and weapons into the Philippines, aiming to increase military ties with the former US-occupied territory.

The deal aims to avoid the more contentious issues of establishing permanent US bases in the Philippines, and those familiar with the talks say that the goal is to have more US troops on the Philippines’ own bases, avoiding directly contending with the memory of an ugly occupation and the bloody crackdowns that followed.

The US has troops rotated into the Philippines’ bases regularly already, and the deal is likely to take the form of a revision in that schedule, allowing more troops to be “rotated” into the nation.

The pretext for this will be the putative military “threat” posed by China. Both the Philippines and China have disputed claims over islands in the South China Sea, and the Philippines government has sought increased military deployment envisioning an eventual conflict over the unoccupied islands, not so much for the islands themselves but for the oil believes to be offshore.

US Seeks Expanded Role for Military in Philippines
Floyd Whaley / The New York Times

MANILA (July 12, 2013) — The United States is negotiating an agreement to allow it to position military equipment and rotate more personnel into the Philippines while avoiding the contentious issue of re-establishing American bases in the country, according to officials from both countries.

The negotiations for increased military access come amid simmering tensions between the Philippines and China over areas in the South China Sea claimed by both countries and moves by the United States to ensure it retains influence in the region even as China’s grows.

The Philippines, which has a small navy and air force, has been relying on support from the United States, a close ally, to modernize its military and upgrade its abilities. Part of this relationship has involved regular short-term visits by American military forces for joint training, humanitarian work and disaster response.

The arrangement under negotiation now would allow American forces to visit for longer periods and be stationed on Philippine military bases.

On Thursday, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the head of the Pacific Command, said the United States was looking for access that would enable it to help the Philippines in its defense as well as to aid in responding to disasters. The admiral, who was responding to questions at a news conference, reiterated stated American policy that it would not reopen bases in the Philippines.

The United States maintained large military bases in the Philippines for nearly a century to counter imperial Japan’s expansion before World War II and, later, to ensure a regional presence in the cold war. But in 1992, the last American base in the country closed after street protests against what some saw as a painful reminder of decades of American rule, and a decision by the Philippine Senate to discontinue the American military presence.

But the presence of United States military forces in the Philippines remains controversial.

Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that no new American bases were planned and said any new agreement would be in line with the Philippine Constitution. He said the discussions with the United States involved the use of “rotational” forces.

“We continue to talk and refine with the United States the modalities and parameters for increased rotational presence of United States forces in the Philippines,” he said.

James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, said a likely model for the use of such forces in the Philippines was the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, a contingent of about 500 members of the United States military who come from various branches.

The task force, which focuses on counterterrorism, has been based on a Philippine military base in the southern Philippines since 2002 in a facility that is officially considered temporary.

The United States has also used its former naval base in Subic Bay for ship visits.

Subic Bay is a special economic zone catering to private investors. Last year a subsidiary of the United States defense contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries set up operation for the stated purpose of servicing United States Navy ships, suggesting to some that the American presence in the area would grow.

Mr. Hardy said the American military’s use of Subic and the rotational presence model used in the southern Philippines were both indications of what an American presence in the Philippines might look like.

“Certainly the buildup in Subic by companies that expect to support the US military suggests an expectation that this is going to be a semi-permanent presence,” he said.

The Philippines: Remembering a Forgotten Occupation
Jason Ditz / The Huffington Post

(June 18, 2013) — This week marks the 100th anniversary of the last major battle in one of the most brutal military occupations in American history, and one that has gone almost entirely forgotten, left as little more than a footnote in the history books of children. I am speaking, of course, of the US occupation of the Philippines.

The United States took control of the Philippines in 1898, after it was ceded to them by Spain following the Spanish-American War. The big problem was that the people of the Philippines had already declared independence from Spain several months prior.

What followed was 15 years of bloody crackdowns by US forces under the pretext of what President McKinley called a goal of “benevolent assimilation” of the islands into a dominion of the United States.

The fighting started with the First Philippine Republic, whose soldiers were mostly armed with spears and bows and arrows and whose leadership objected to US military rule. It quickly turned into the sort of ugly war against an insurgency that is all too familiar to us today from US adventures into Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an era where attack drones and warplanes weren’t available, the combat was mostly close quarters, with all of the bloody atrocities straightforward, committed with rifles and bayonets and without the plausible deniability so common today.

The slaughter of villagers in combat areas wasn’t any great secret, and rather the focus of the administrations at the time was in claiming the atrocities were justified.

Villagers in these areas were herded into concentration camps by the hundreds of thousands. Disease was rampant, torture and summary executions commonplace. Some provinces saw virtually their entire populations forced into the camps, nominally to “protect” them from insurgents.

Tens of thousands of Filipino combatants were dead; hundreds of thousands of civilians were also killed. Exact figures will never be known, but the US estimated a population of around nine million when they took the islands over, and by 1908 the estimate was less than eight million remained.

As the war dragged on into its second decade the last resistance to American occupation was in the far south, among the islands’ Muslim minority, the Moro. Major General John Pershing was appointed the military governor, with an eye toward full-scale disarmament of the population and establishing full military control over the Moro.

The last real battle was fought in mid-June of 1913, 100 years ago. From June 11 through June 15, an estimated 10,000 Moro villagers fortified themselves at the top of Mount Bagsak. Gen. Pershing sent in the troops and after convincing many of them to leave, sieged the fortress.

On June 15, 1913, the fortress fell. The last of the Moro rebellion, armed with knives and spears, were all killed. There were no prisoners taken, and no tending to the wounded, who were left to die or killed outright.

When America’s global war on terror began in 2001, hawks began trotting out General Pershing as an example of the proper way of crushing an insurgency — wholesale slaughter. The stories, brutal though they already were, were even exaggerated to suggest Pershing’s anti-Muslim zeal matched the modern fervor.

But as war exhaustion continues to grow in America, and more wars continue to be planned in the halls of power, it is important to remember the horrors of occupation remain to this day. From the Philippine child shot with a US soldier’s service revolver 100+ years ago to the three children killed earlier this month by a US drone strike, it is the innocent who often bear the gravest costs of our wars.

Jason Ditz is news editor at, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of non-interventionism. His work has appeared in Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times and Detroit Free Press.

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