In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the lack of a strategic superpower other than the US in the Western Pacific lead the Philippines to end the lease of bases to the United States. For the first time in literally centuries, the Philippines would not be occupied by a foreign military power.
But the rise of a nationalistic and expansionist China has the Philippines rethinking their military alignment with the United States. The first tentative steps to allowing US forces to use the excellent naval and military facilities in the region are still underway.
A Marine on liberty in Olongapo City, just outside the gates of the base at Subic Bay, is suspected of murdering a transgendered Filipino.
The commander of U.S. Pacific Command has stopped two of its warships from leaving the Philippines after a U.S. Marine was named as a suspect in the murder of a transgender Filipino he met in a bar, a Philippine official said on Monday.
Admiral Samuel Locklear had ordered the USS Peleliu and another warship to stay in the former U.S. base of Subic Bay until after the murder investigation is over, said Eduardo Oban, executive director of the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission.
U.S. troops have been taking part in a 10-day military exercise with the Philippines.
A U.S. Marine was in the custody of American military officials aboard the USS Peleliu in connection with the case, the U.S. Navy Times said.
Setting aside for the moment the actual guilt or innocence of the Marine in question, there has been a murder, and the US is, in the eye of the public there, to blame.
While there is a great deal of trepidation in the Philippines about China, there is also a great deal of unease about allowing the US back into the country. As for the US, the lack of forward operating bases in the Western Pacific is a major handicap against establishing and maintaining a credible deterrent to Chinese threats in the region. The few bases we do have are crowded and vulnerable.
As the US attempts to gain greater access to bases in the Philippines (and elsewhere) this incident, and others in the past, and those sure to come in the future, will have a chilling effect.
Every time I went overseas, I was reminded that, as a soldier, I was the ambassador of my nation that the host population would see. I would be the face of America to people who would have only my actions to judge my country on.