By Daniel Llanto
Adopting what seemed to be a hardline stance, President Duterte shot down a reported plan in Washington to bring back the US bases to Subic, saying this would lead to a war that may result in the “extinction of the Filipino race.”
In his fifth state of the nation address (SONA) on July 27, Duterte said he won’t allow US bases in Subic Bay with the same air of finality as his intent to do nothing on the maritime row with China over the West Philippine Sea, the reason cited in the US plan to re-claim its presence in the Philippines.
Duterte lately eased up on his anti-US rhetoric as he ordered the process of abrogating the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement suspended but said allowing US bases at this time would “ensure that a war breaks out because there will be atomic arsenals to be brought in.”
Subic Bay was one of the largest US naval facilities in the world before it was shut down in 1992 when the Philippine Senate terminated the bases agreement with Washington.
Duterte earlier this year ordered the termination of the VFA with the US. However, the termination was halted in June amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The VFA, which was ratified by the Senate in 1999, governs the conduct of US troops who take part in military exercises in the Philippines.
“I’ll just put on record my thoughts. I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China. But if you put bases here, (it would be) just like Manila in the Second World War, one of the most devastated cities in the world,” the President said.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the Philippines “pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”
“Now, plenty of critics, both sides, claim nothing has been done to retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea. You know, unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that you better just call it off and treat it us a diplomatic endeavor. China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms; we do not have it. So? It’s simple as that,” Duterte said.
“They are in possession of the property. So what can we do? We have to go to war and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan, sabihin ko sa inyo,” he added.
Duterte said his administration works without fail to protect the country’s rights in the South China Sea, “neither beholden or a pawn to anyone.”
“We broaden the boundaries of Philippine diplomacy. We build productive ties with everyone willing to engage us on the basis of equality and mutual respect. And we redefine our relationships with our most important partners, placing the economy in a far better position to advance our interests in an evolving regional order and emerging global problems,” he claimed.