The US government has no plans for
Manila Bulletin - 03/14/2002
No plans for bases, says envoy By Mario B. Casayuran. The US government has no plans of establishing a military base in the country as it considers Subic and Clark, its former huge military installations, relics of the Cold War.
This was stressed by new US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone in a courtesy call Monday on Senate President Franklin M. Drilon who released yesterday some details of the US envoy's visit.
Drilon quoted Ricciardone as saying that the US government's former military bases here are "issues of the past" and that the relationship between the Philippines and the US "may be described as more of fraternal and not paternal."
The US military bases in the country were shut down after the Philippine Senate rejected by a slim margin in 1991 a proposal to extend their lease.
It was during the visit, according to Drilon, that he emphasized the importance of allaying fears of permanent basing of American troops in the country.
"The 'Balikatan' exercises should be finished within six months, as agreed upon, to calm public fears that the drills is a prelude to the setting up of US bases in the country," Drilon said.
The Senate chief said that the existing relationship between the Philippines and the US is based on mutual respect.
He reiterated the need for US assistance to strengthen the fight of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo against poverty as the ultimate solution to combat terrorism in the country.
But opposition Sen. Gregorio Honasan said the US has already established a "forward basing situation" in the country even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
All it took was for the US to unilaterally declare that the Muslim terrorist Abu Sayyaf group as having links to Osama bin Laden's al Queda, Honasan said.
"We can't take the word of the US ambassador at face value," Honasan said as he expressed the hope that the war against the Abu Sayyaf would not expand.
Honasan asked whether the Philippines will benefit from its alliance with the US as as advisers to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, who are keeping two American citizens and a Filipino nurse as hostages in the mountains of Basilan.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rodolfo G. Biazon, vice chairman of the Senate national defense committee, said yesterday the charges filed by French Stephane Loisy and Sonia Wending against deposed President Estrada before the Court of Nantes in France for allegedly endangering their lives after they were kidnaped by the Abu Sayyaf in Sipadan, Malaysia last April 23, 2000 will not prosper even under international law.
When former President Estrada ordered military and police forces to go after the kidnapers of the Sipadan hostages, he was well within his constitutional duty and right as head of the military and police forces in the enforcement of our laws, Biazon said.