The Islands Under Martial Law
Post-Vietnam Reassessment of Ties to America
As South Vietnam and Cambodia fall, both believers and skeptics of the so-called “domino theory” look with trepidation toward such longtime U.S. allies as Thailand and the Philippines. Thailand's government already has demanded the prompt departure of all American forces from that country. And the Philippine government in mid-April announced that it would reassess its security ties with the United States because of America's “apparent new perception” of its commitments in Southeast Asia.
Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, in an address April 15 at the National Defense College in Manila, said that “Prudence requires any political leader in the area today to look into these matters in view of the debacle in the Indochina areas.” And the next day, in a lengthy policy statement, Marcos said: “There is no certainty that in case of external aggression the United States would come to the rescue of the Philippines. …The future of our relationship, which is perhaps the oldest in Asia, must be discussed as early as possible on the basis of complete reciprocity of interest.”
Lying some 600 miles across the South China Sea from Vietnam and China, with Taiwan to the north and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south, the Philippine archipelago occupies a strategic position in Asia and the Pacific. American military bases in the Philippines include Clark Air Force Base north of Manila, the largest U.S. overseas air facility, and Subic Bay Naval Base, the largest U.S. naval base in the western Pacific. Both had heavy use during the Vietnam War and are being used today in the removal of remaining Americans from Indochina. Rent-free lease agreements for the bases run until 1991 but are now being reconsidered by the Marcos government. It fears that the bases may be more of a liability than an asset, even though they employ large numbers of Filipinos and provide a payroll of at least $150 million annually. It is estimated that U.S. military spending and employment account for nearly 10 per cent of the Philippines' gross national product.