Revenue-driven policy limits Navy use of Subic base
The notice by SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma to terminate the use of Subic as a Navy operating base is understandable since she has to produce more revenues which is the gauge of her performance. She is only concerned with the economic pillar of national security. Balancing of the rest of the four pillars of national security is not within her job description. The decision whether the Navy stays in Subic or join the Badjao rests on the National Security Council and the political leadership.
In 1996, a similarly absurd revenue-driven policy was imposed on Philippine Navy ships requesting to dock in Alava pier. They were being charged dollar-denominated docking fees. Ironically, these ships were only there to refuel and reprovision after patrolling the area west of Luzon which includes Subic Bay. Fortunately, SBMA management immediately realized the mistake and rescinded the docking fee requirement.
In anticipation of the termination of the Philippine-US Military Bases Agreement, the Legislative-Executive Bases Council chaired by former UP president Jose V. Abueva was created in 1989 to study and recommend the disposition of the US bases. The LEBC recommended the allocation of 70 hectares in the Naval Air Station area in Cubi for use of the Philippine Navy. When Republic Act No. 7227 (BCDA Law) was eventually passed in 1992, this recommendation was not included. Instead, as pointed out by then Sen. Rodolfo Biazon in Senate Bill 34 for the amendment of RA 7227, since the political leadership believed that the presence of military camps in Metro Manila is a threat to the seat of government due to the numerous coup attempts, these camps were included for sale. Instead of the Navy gaining additional space, Fort Abad, the site of Headquarters Philippine Navy, became a candidate site for a new casino or commercial center.
Camps, bases and stations development is the most enduring component of the AFP modernization. All the modern hardware will come to naught if there are no maintenance and operating bases. Human resource development will be a farce if the sailors and Marines will have no permanent home they can call their own. Geography is an important and critical factor in the selection of a naval base. The Spanish and US navies took pains in identifying and developing Subic. Relocation and replication may be resorted to but the geographical advantage of a deep-water, typhoon-protected and strategically located Subic Bay could not be found anywhere. Strategic bases once lost are lost forever. National security policies should be centuries beyond the 6-year presidential term. RA 7227 and RA 7898 (Modernization Law) as amended should be revisited to redefine the permanent home of AFP units.
VICTORINO S. HINGCO, retired vice admiral-AFP, AFPOVAI, Taguig City
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