Cornucopia or Curse: The Internal Debate on the U.S. Bases in the Philippines

Alexander Magno


The US military bases in the Philippines have been a subject of great political debate and controversy. With the upcoming renegotiation of the treaty covering the presence of the US military bases in the Philippines, it is worthwhile to review the main arguments for and against the extension of the treaty. This paper discusses the following points that have been raised in favor of retaining US bases in the Philippines: 1) the geopolitical argument, which argues that US bases need to be in the Philippines in order to inhibit "communist expansion;" 2) the economic benefits argument; 3) the political realism argument, which may be reduced to the assertion that the Philippines is and forever tied to the US; 4) the legalist argument, or the position that the treaty must be upheld because it is legally binding; 5) the Filipino-American friendship argument. Meanwhile, the following have been cited as the reasons for opposing the retention of US bases in the Philippines: 1) the bases have only marginal economic utility; 2) the alternative uses argument, which favors converting the bases into more economically-productive assets; 3) the argument that the bases function as magnets for nuclear attack and as staging grounds for American intervention in internal Philippine affairs; 4) the doubtful legality of the bases; 5) the social costs associated with the bases, such as the growth of prostitution, increasing crime rates, prevalence of drug-trafficking, and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases in the vicinity of the bases. The paper concludes by explaining how there is little chance that the treaty will be abrogated in light of the present condition of Philippine politics; however, as Philippine politics is currently in a state of flux, there may soon come a time when these conditions will be radically altered.

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