The United States military is back in the Philippines, and local merchants and government leaders appear pleased.
The United States brought 6,000 troops and other personnel to Naval Station Subic Bay for exercises in April. And U.S. ships are also using the facility to provide supplies to Pacific-based naval ships.
Philippine leaders welcome the return of Americans after a 24-year absence. They hope the U.S. presence will boost the nation’s economy and counter China’s efforts to assert more control over the South China Sea.
The Philippine government retains control over the Subic Bay base, located in Olongapo, and other military bases.
“The Philippines has always given the love to America,” said Olongapo business owner Stephen Lyon. “But there’s a betrayal, and issues in the past and worse.”
In 1991, the Philippine Congress voted to expel the U.S. military from Naval Station Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base.
At the time, 24 years ago, many in the Philippines viewed the United States as having too much influence and control over their country.
That resentment carried over from the 48 years – 1898 to 1946 – that the Philippines was a territory of the United States.
Naval Station Subic Bay had been the largest overseas U.S. military facility. It served as a major ship repairing facility. Its seaside attractions made it a favorite recreation and resting place for U.S. military personnel.
Last year, the Philippines signed a 10-year agreement to allow the United States to post troops, weapons and materials at several bases, including Subic Bay.
That pact was challenged and is now before the Philippines Supreme Court.
The court is not expected to rule on the case before President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines Nov. 18-Nov. 19, according to Philippine news reports.
Still, the United States is now able to post large numbers of troops temporarily at Subic Bay for exercises.
Some business owners say they hope to benefit from spending by American troops.
“We like Americans to come back here in Subic,” said Mar Amil, 45, who sells cell phones. “Because, you know the jobs here and the businesses, that’s why we like Americans to come back in the base. Everybody, 99 percent, they like Americans here.”
Amil’s view is supported by research polls. The Pew Research Center reported last April that 92 percent of Filipinos view the United States favorably.
But the welcome of the U.S. military isn’t shared by everybody in the Philippines.
In August, the League of Filipino Students (LFS) criticized the arrival in Subic Bay of the U.S. submarine, the USS Chicago.
“Chicago is just another addition to the number of US military forces making port calls in the country,” the group’s Charisse Bañez said in a statement. “The U.S. pivot to Asia is its grand scheme of conquering the region and exploiting peoples such as Filipinos for its own economic interests.”
The Navy seems aware that bad conduct in the past by U.S. military personnel near Subic Bay angered local residents.
A U.S. Marine was charged last year with killing a local transgender man in an Olongapo hotel room.
The military has since banned personnel from the local entertainment district.
United States officials call for close ties with the Philippines and other Asian nations.
They want to gain increased access to bases in the Philippines. Also important are the 80,000 U.S. troops based in South Korea and Japan and the U.S. refueling facility in Singapore, they say.
Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford Jr. recently met with leaders in South Korea and Japan. He said he found the leaders wanting a close relationship with the United States.
“The amount of engagement that we have in the Pacific is unprecedented,” Dunford said. He is chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Ralph Jennings reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
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Words in This Story
merchant(s) - n. people who buy and sell goods
facility - n. something that is built for purpose; a military base or center
caveat -- n. an explanation or warning that should be remembered when you are doing or thinking about something
boost - v. to improve or strengthen
resentment -- n. a feeling of anger or displeasure about someone or something unfair
pivot – n. to turn on or around a central point
exploiting – v. to get value or use from