MANILA, Philippines – Now the Philippines can better assert its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
Amid simmering tensions with China over the resource-rich area, the Philippines announced the re-opening of the Subic Bay base which will house its newest and most powerful assets, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
Arsenio Andolong, public affairs chief of the Department of National Defense (DND), said the move is timely and practical considering the base’s facilities and proximity to the disputed area.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will use portions of Subic for the new assets coming in like the FA-50 jets and the new vessels that are arriving,” he said.
The base is located a mere 200 kilometers away from Scarborough Shoal which is currently under control by the Chinese.
With the newest South Korean-manufactured fighter jets, reinforcements to beleaguered Filipino forces especially in another shoal—Ayungin—can be done in a few minutes.
“The Subic facilities are ideal: it has deep-water port and the runways are perfect for the FA-50,” Andolong said.
Besides the fighter jets, frigates and other naval assets will also be stationed in Subic so they could be easily deployed to the West Philippine Sea, he added.
Formerly a US military facility which was one of the largest outside North America, the base has since become a commercial and economic hub following the departure of American forces in 1992.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan and several other Southeast Asian countries are currently engaged in a dispute over the West Philippine Sea which, besides being rich in fish stocks and other natural resources, is also one of the world’s busiest maritime lanes with trade and cargo passing through the area annually.
China has been accused by its smaller neighbors of trying to occupy the entire area by building several artificial islands which could host permanent military bases in the future.