Senators divided on opening PHL military facilities to US forces

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ONE SENATOR praised the President’s pronouncement of willingness to open Philippine military facilities to American forces should the Russia-Ukraine war spill over to Asia, but an opposition lawmaker pointed out that making such a statement is “irresponsible and premature.” 

“The Philippine government should not be issuing statements that are counter-intuitive to conflict resolution and which almost amount to saber-rattling,” opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima said in a statement on Saturday. 

The detained senator, known as one of the staunchest critics of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, noted that the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) continue to call for a peaceful resolution and withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine. 

NATO is a political and military alliance with 30 member countries, including several neighbors of Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russian forces since Feb. 24.  

Ukrainian authorities have said that the country’s plan to become a NATO member is among the main reasons for Russia’s unprovoked invasion.  

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr., on the other hand, said it was only right for the country to be prepared for all scenarios.  

“We signed the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. So, we should walk the talk. If our facilities are needed whether it be on land, sea, or air, it is only proper (to provide assistance),” he said in Filipino in a DZRH radio interview on Saturday. 

Mr. Lacson, a former national police chief, is running for president in the May elections.  

Mr. Duterte, who is ending his six-year term by June 30, on Friday said that “reality” pushes the country to take a side when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine crisis despite his preference for neutrality. 

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel del Gallego Romualdez told reporters that the tough-talking leader has assured the US government that, “If push comes to shove, the Philippines will be ready to be part of the effort, especially if this Ukrainian crisis spills over to the Asian region.” 

“He (Mr. Duterte) offered that the Philippines will be ready to open its doors, especially to our ally, the United States, in using our facilities, any facilities that they may need,” Mr. Romualdez said, citing the former US military bases in Clark and Subic.   

Both Clark and Subic — which used to be an American air and naval base, respectively — have been developed into special economic zones with air and sea port facilities. 

“If this spreads out into our part, the Asian region, for some reason or another, the President obviously sees the need for us to make a choice and our choices, obviously, since we have an MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) with the United States, we have this special relationship, our military alliance,” Mr. Romualdez said.  

Under the treaty, both sides must help each other in case of any external aggression. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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