PH a 'legitimate target' if US bases return in Subic - Navy chief

The Philippine Navy (PN) rejected on Tuesday the reported plan of the United States Navy to re-establish its former base in Subic Bay, Zambales, maintaining it will make the Philippines a "legitimate target in the unlikely event of war."

Philippine Navy (PN) Chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo

Navy Chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told the Manila Bulletin putting up a US Navy base in Philippine soil may end up with unlikely results.

"That is way beyond just having US Navy ships conducting repairs or other commercial activities in Subic," he said.

He issued the statement after President Duterte warned about the dangers of building an American military base in the country during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Duterte said he has read a report about the supposed plan of the US Navy to re-establish its former base in Subic, which coincided with the increased presence of American warships in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China's aggressive assertion of its claims in the South China Sea.

"I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China, but if you put bases here, you will double the spectacle of a most destructive thing just like Manila during the Second World War, during the retaking of this city. One of the most devastated cities in the world," Duterte said.

"Kaya maglagay-lagay ka ng (So if you put up a) base at this time, this will ensure if war breaks out -- because there would be atomic arsenals brought in -- this will ensure the extinction of the Filipino race," he added.

Back in May 2020, Bacordo revealed their plan to establish a new military base in an abandoned shipyard in Subic which can accommodate the BRP Tarlac and BRP Davao del Sur landing docks -- the largest sea vessels of the Navy, the Del-Pilar class frigates and other future acquisitions.

The shipyard is owned by cash-stripped South Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, which in 2019, filed for bankruptcy due to its USD1.3 billion outstanding loans from Philippine banks and South Korean lenders. 

Hanjin then asked help from the Philippine government to seek investors who will take over the operation of the shipyard.

However, the US Navy is reportedly eyeing to return to its former base in Subic with the nearing completion of a commercial deal between Australian shipbuilder Austal Ltd. and US private equity Cerberus for the takeover of the Hanjin shipyard.

Subic Bay used to be an American naval facility until it was closed in 1992 when the Senate terminated the PH-US Military Bases Agreement.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has reportedly thumbed down the re-establishment of a US Navy base in Subic.