Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez announced that President Duterte offered the country’s facilities, mainly Subic Bay and Clark Air Base, for use by the United States should the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict spills over to Asia.
Romualdez said Duterte told him in a meeting last week in Manila that “if push comes to shove, the Philippines will be ready to be part of the effort, especially if the crisis spills over to the Asian region.” Romualdez added that he already conveyed Duterte’s assurance to Washington.
Romualdez explained that part of Duterte’s reasoning is that Manila should honor its commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US if the need arises and the situation warrants it.
The MDT signed in 1951 commits both countries to come to each other’s aid in case of foreign aggression or armed attack on its troops, ships and aircraft.
The ambassador said among the facilities that the country may offer for use by the US is Subic Bay and Clark in Pampanga. Subic and Clark formerly hosted US naval and air force units until 1992 when the Senate said no to the renewal of the lease for the bases.
“(Duterte) said he is allowing the use of facilities, which I assume would be the use of Clark for instance, for some of the aircraft that the United States may need,” Romualdez said. He said Clark may be opened for use in an “emergency” situation.
“Let’s pray that it doesn’t happen but if this spreads out into our part, the Asian region, for some reason or another, the President obviously sees the need for us to make a choice and our choices, since we have an MDT with the United States, we have this special relationship, our military alliance,” Romualdez further said.
Duterte has a volatile relationship with the US, especially after he pushed for closer relationship with Beijing and Moscow, two of Washington’s ideological rivals.
On the invitation of US President Joe Biden for Duterte to attend a planned meeting between the US and Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) in Washington, Duterte supposedly told Romualdez that the former would not go if the meeting takes place on his 77th birthday on March 28.
“He was not very keen about it especially because the end of March, March 28 is his birthday. So that is another reason why he says that he never really leaves his residence which is a tradition and something that’s always followed,” Romualdez said.
However, Cambodia which chairs the ASEAN bloc this year already said that the summit which was originally set for March 28 and 29 has been moved to a later date as some leaders of the 10-member bloc cannot attend on the proposed dates.
Romualdez said if the event is held at a later date “there is a possibility that he may go.”
Duterte, whose single six year term is set to end on June 30 this year, has never visited Washington during his presidency though he paid state visits to China and Russia.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said 90 Filipinos have been brought back to Manila since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said 169 others were safely evacuated from Ukraine and were just waiting for their repatriation flights to Manila.
She said 259 Filipinos in Ukraine were assisted by the DFA through its embassies in countries neighboring Ukraine such as Poland, Romania and Hungary.
At the start of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the DFA said there are about 380 Filipinos in Ukraine and 8,000 in Russia.