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Australia Takes Control of Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines

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Subic Bay

Subic Bay

Up until 1992, Subic Bay was a major refitting and supply naval base for the U.S. Navy. Thousands of Americans and their families were based there and at Clark AFB, another major U.S. military installation. Then, the political climate changed in both countries and the leases for these bases ended and they were returned to the Philippines. The Americans left.

The void left the government at a quandary as to how to utilize them since their own military was far less larger. Clark AFB simply became another large regional airport but Subic Bay remained a challenge to use as a port since Manila was a major port for commercial transport. In the years that followed 1992, the area fell into disrepair, although many Filipinos continued to live near or in Subic Bay.

Eventually, a South Korean company, Hanjin, entered into a contract and lease with the government to renovate and enhance Subic Bay port facilities. It was hoped that it might become a tourist destination because of its natural beauty. But for whatever reason, the plans fell through as the years went by and the government became disenchanted with the lease that was not panning out to their expectations.

In Australia, the Northern territory government did a rather naive and stupid long term lease with a Chinese company called, Landbridge, for over $500 million, to operate and enhance the port at Darwin! This was in 2015, just as China was stealing numerous islands as their own in the South China Sea and expanding them to become military bases that are there today. How the Australian Federal government allowed this lease for 99-years to be approved is now under investigation and they plan to break the lease agreement now that China's actions near the Philippines are clear.

Another company, Austal, at the behest of American interests and another American firm, has now secured a lease for port operations at Subic Bay. This came only after two Chinese companies had approached the Duterte government in the Philippines to secure a lease for it. President Duterte was initially in favor of it (no big surprise there) because of the jobs and promised tourist additions. However, his cabinet members and military generals were very opposed to it. In the current climate, where China has seized several islands belonging to the Philippines, heavily fished their waters within their Economic Zone, and now claiming that Scarborough Island is also theirs for a radar station, even Duterte has said "enough".

That is when the Australians and Americans approached to take over and improve Subic Bay and secured a long term lease. For both countries, it is a vital overseas military port that has much of the needed facilities already built. It will allow the USN and other allied ships a port within the region and certainly make China think twice about the South China Sea area. It also signals to them that even the Philippines has had enough of their bully tactics and the government is once again turning friendly towards the US, which had been there for decades before 1992. The relationship was very similar to that between Guam and the US, which is a major military installation.

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perrya (author) on May 10, 2021:

I agree, it IS too little too late, the time for that passed five years ago but it does put China on notice bc they had a quasi friend in the PH but even Duterte seems to have had enough with the latest China claim that Scarborough reef is theirs so close to PH mainland. For Subic Bay, it will be great development and to have Americans back. Just think what would have happened had China got the port. That wouldve been a real shocker.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 09, 2021:

All of this is too little and too late and I really wonder if it has any relevance now. Nobody has dared to disperse the Chinese trawlers cum come warships out of Philippine waters, so all this appears as another empty talk.

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