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Old 12-06-2006   #1
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Default The US role in the Philippines (catch all)

5 December Reuters (SWC member COL Dave Maxwell quoted) - U.S., Philippines Apply 'Soft Power' Against Militants by Jonathan Lyons.

Quote:
A map in the U.S. briefing room looks like standard-issue military, but the colour-coded markings are not shorthand for fighting units, defensive positions, or future lines of attack.

Rather, the patchwork of shaded circles and ovals across the figure-eight-shaped island of Jolo bespeak a different kind of warfare, one that Washington hopes will finally end the Muslim insurgency that has long plagued the southern Philippines.

"This is not about firing shots. This is about changing the conditions that give rise to terrorism," said Colonel David Maxwell, commander of the U.S. Joint Special Forces Task Force.

Where traditional tactics might dictate heavy deployment of troops, or destruction of local villages that can harbor insurgents, Filipino and U.S. planners seek to use "soft power" to win over local residents and deny the rebels a place to hide.

As a result, the Task Force's briefing room map is dotted with circles -- strategically placed across the island to cut off suspected enemy positions. Each denotes a new school or road, a medical mission to a remote village, a water project.

Longer-term programs include reform of the Philippines security forces, large-scale economic development and political empowerment of the disenfranchised Muslim minority in this predominantly Catholic country.

U.S. officials say their approach to Jolo, in the southern Sulu Archipelago, is based on a successful turnaround that began in 2002 on neighboring Basilan.

Today that island, which once tied down 15 Filipino battalions, requires just two. A local fast-food chain opened an outlet there in a widely hailed sign of "normality."...
More at the link...
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Old 02-14-2007   #2
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Thumbs up Where U.S. is Helping to Make Gains Against Terrorism

Where U.S. is Helping to Make Gains Against Terrorism - Christian Science Monitor.

Quote:
... Gaining the trust of residents in Panamao, a stricken village on the edge of a combat zone, is why US and Philippine troops are dug in here. In counterterrorism jargon, this Muslim community is a "center of gravity" that can be swayed with targeted projects – a new well, a school classroom, or a toilet. "It's not the amount of people that you affect. It's who you affect," says Captain Battle, a civil-affairs officer.

At a time when success stories in the U.S.-led war on terror have been all but eclipsed by failures in Iraq, recent developments in the southern Philippines offer a degree of hope to Pentagon planners. But they also show the complexity of waging war in a contested, chaotic area, as well as the long slog needed to stand up a national army equal to sure-footed militants

Five years after Philippine troops, supplied and advised by US soldiers, drove Islamic militants from the island of Basilan, a major offensive is under way on Jolo Island, where the militants regrouped. The goal is to deny sanctuary to the remaining members of Abu Sayyaf, one of several insurgent groups who have been fighting for a separate Islamist state. Since August, elite Philippine units have killed or captured as many as half of an estimated 400 Abu Sayyaf on Jolo Island, including their slain leader Khadaffy Janjalani and several other senior operatives...
And of course...

Quote:
... Even after five years of substantial military aid, US officers are quick to give credit to their allies for the victories.

"It's a Philippines success story. They're the one doing the heavy lifting and doing the fighting and helping the people and we're providing support," says Col. David Maxwell, commander of the joint taskforce, who led the 2002 Basilan operation....
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Old 02-15-2007   #3
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Default Thanks

Thanks for posting that success story. There are more out there like that and the Public needs to hear more of them. I remember when the Corps of Engineers completed their 1200th project in Iraq - I think it was a school renovation - and there wasn't a peep about it in the national media.
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Old 02-15-2007   #4
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Default In Philippines, U.S. Making Progress in War on Terror

A USA Today article I almost missed (thanks Max!) - In Philippines, U.S. Making Progress in War on Terror by Paul Wiseman.

Quote:
Thousands of miles from the bazaars of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, U.S. military forces are quietly helping defeat terrorists in the jungles of the southern Philippines, a forgotten front in the global war on terrorism.

Working behind the scenes with a rejuvenated Philippine military, U.S. special forces have helped kill, capture or rout hundreds of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas who have links to the Islamic terror groups Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda, Philippine and U.S. military commanders say.

The Abu Sayyaf, responsible for 16 years of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in the southern Philippines, has been forced to flee into the mountainous terrain here on Jolo island in the remote Sulu Archipelago.

But its numbers are dwindling and its leadership almost wiped out, says Brig. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of Philippine special forces on Jolo.

"They are on the run," Pabustan says. "They are evading our troops now, and they are short of ammunition. … We are slowly neutralizing Abu Sayyaf."

American officials agree...
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Old 03-01-2007   #5
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Default U.S. Troops in Philippines Defy Old Stereotype

1 March Christian Science Monitor - U.S. Troops in Philippines Defy Old Stereotype by Simon Montlake.

Quote:
When US troops arrived in the southern islands in December 2001, a decade after closing its bases in the Philippines, critics assailed the move. They predicted a return of permanent US camps in its former colony, and a repeat of the sleazy bars and clubs still surrounding its former bases near Manila.

More alarming to US ears were dire warnings of resistance from Muslims whose island communities were to be rid of militants by US-assisted Philippine troops. Observers warned that the foreign presence could inflame the situation, as well as revive memories of a bloody US military campaign in the early 1900s to subdue Muslim-inhabited Mindanao.

Today, these warnings mostly ring false. About 450 US soldiers are still here, based inside Philippine military command centers in Zamboanga and the nearby island of Jolo. But the expected nightlife boom hasn't happened. Nor have militants taken the fight to the foreigners deployed here, though a US serviceman died in a bomb attack on a restaurant in 2002.

US officers say their small footprint in Mindanao, as well as a focus on joint development projects and counterinsurgency training of the Philippine Army, have smoothed their path. But further challenges lie ahead as US troop, and their Philippine counterparts who are notorious for human rights abuses, continue pursuing Muslim insurgent cells on the islands.

One measure of the US approach can be found on Basilan, where US troops first deployed in 2002. At the time, the extremist group Abu Sayyaf had turned the island, a 30-minute ferry ride from Zamboanga, into a no-go zone with a string of abductions, bombings, and beheadings...
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Old 03-02-2007   #6
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Hi:

Yup.

Incidentally, the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where there is still much goodwill for the US and the Americans. Among Christian Filipinos at least.

And this is notwithstanding the love-hate relationship between Filipinos and Americans.

That is why the Philippines is not and will never be similar to Iraq.:=)

Cheers.
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Old 03-10-2007   #7
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Default Stars and Stripes Series on Philippines COIN Operations

H/t to max161.

Officials Say Philippine Fight Much Different Than Iraq, Afghanistan - Stars and Stripes.

Quote:
It’s unfair to compare the Iraq or Afghanistan insurgencies with the one being battled in the southern Philippines, officials stressed during recent interviews.

U.S. troops with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines provide “assistance and advice” to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops are fully engaged in combat operations. Recently, the Philippine military has killed several high-value targets and appears to have the Abu Sayyaf Group on the ropes on Jolo Island. Soldiers told Stars and Stripes that Abu Sayyaf hasn’t been able to mount any sort of attack in months...
Finding the Root of Home-grown Terrorism - Stars and Stripes.

Quote:
There is no magic fix when fighting an insurgency, according to officials who are working that problem now in the southern Philippines. Col. David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, briefed Stars and Stripes about the issue during recent interviews in Manila and at his headquarters compound on Mindanao Island.

Key to countering an insurgency is understanding that it is a political problem first and foremost, with implications for the military, Maxwell said. “An insurgency will be defeated if the underlying political and socioeconomic causes are properly addressed,” Maxwell said.

"You’ve got to be here and engaged, which we are, as a country … as a country team,” Maxwell said. “You’ve got to have patience. This takes a long time.”...
Special Forces Lend Hand to Counterparts - Stars and Stripes.

Quote:
Dozens of U.S. Special Forces soldiers, many fresh from combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, have found themselves in a new role fighting the war on terror in the southern Philippines.

As one soldier with experience in Afghanistan explained, it’s tough to transition from actively fighting an enemy downrange to “advising and assisting” the Philippine military in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf terror group in the steamy jungles of Jolo, Mindanao and Basilan islands. But, he added, he understands the local population has to learn to trust its own government and military.

The U.S. soldiers -- National Guardsmen with the 19th Special Forces Group -- are part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. They are not allowed to actively engage the enemy, and they can return fire only if attacked.

They’re organized into 12-man “Liaison Command Element” teams and they eat, live and work with their Armed Forces of the Philippines counterparts...
Making Friends in Abu Sayyaf’s Territory - Stars and Stripes.

Quote:
A tiny two-room school that sits off a dusty road in the middle of the jungle on Jolo Island could play a role in the battle between Abu Sayyaf terrorists and the Philippine government.

With its cracked foundation, peeling paint and major structural damage, it looks like hundreds of other rural schools scattered across the southern Philippines. But what makes the Tayungen Elementary School special is its location.

“The school is smack dab in the middle” of a north-south migration route used by Abu Sayyaf terrorists, said U.S. Army Capt. Steve Battle, a civil affairs officer with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. Battle runs a four-man Army civil affairs team in a strategically important location on the kidney-shaped island, where the land pinches together into just a three-mile strip from shore to shore...
Civil Affairs Team Members Roughing It at Remote Camps - Stars and Stripes.

Quote:
When civil affairs soldiers with Team 761 head home after a day’s work on the island, it’s hard to tell if they’re on a military camp or the set of “Survivor.”

They live on Jolo’s “Seit Poblasion” Philippine marine base overlooking a volcanic crater lake, surrounded by a beautiful jungle and monkeys that screech through the night. Most of the buildings are bamboo with thatched roofs, though the team’s house is a bit sturdier.

U.S. Army Capt. Steve Battle, the team leader, lives there with a sergeant, a medic and an engineer. And recently they’ve added a U.S. Marine staff sergeant who is gathering information on a mission that will help the Marine Corps work on setting up its own civil-affairs teams...
Navy Helps Philippine's Sea Defense - Stars and Stripes.

Quote:
U.S. Navy Special Warfare sailors are helping the Philippine navy learn to control the waters around islands where they’re fighting Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

Special Warfare Combatant Craft crew and their MK V special operations craft and rigid inflatable boats have followed the Philippine navy on more than 4,000 “visit, board, search and seizures” since arriving in the Philippines in October, said Chief Petty Officer Michael Andre, a RIB detachment commander.

The crewmen and an accompanying group of Navy SEALs are based at Coronado, Calif., and are supporting the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines by training counterparts in the Philippine naval special operations units...
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Old 03-11-2007   #8
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This is really good stuff, all around. It's good to see this getting out there, now if only more MSM outlets run with it.

From what I've seen on Filipino TV, it's not even getting much play there.
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Old 03-11-2007   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
This is really good stuff, all around. It's good to see this getting out there, now if only more MSM outlets run with it.

From what I've seen on Filipino TV, it's not even getting much play there.
I've posted this and some more on the SWJ Blog - COIN in the PI: Below the Doom and Gloom Radar.

Quote:
Just below the 24/7 “if it bleeds it leads” MSM headlines there is another story -- an encouraging story -- concerning our worldwide counterinsurgency efforts. What follows is a sampling of recent reporting on COIN efforts in the Philippines...
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Old 03-11-2007   #10
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Default Ahhhh...

Didn't catch it being blogged. I'm going to make an effort to catch the P.I. nightly news to see if the story does get picked up, and will try to report what the local sentiment is.
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Old 03-11-2007   #11
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Default In Perspective

Having spent more than a few months in the Philippines one needs to keep this in perspective. First the successes being enjoyed are real, but the success is in no small part due to the fact that it has been kept out of the media. Like any other democratic country opposing parties will attempt to exploit the incumbent's policies. This is noted any time there is a hick up in the current operation such as the Marine who allegedly raped the Filippina girl. It received a lot press in the Philippines and there were movements (relatively small, but very vocal) to get the Americans out of the Philippines. When we say quiet professionals, we mean quiet professionals, and we need to keep it that way.

Another aspect is that Muslim separatist movement is focused on Minadao, the southern most island (not counting the little unpopulated or lightly populated islands) the Philippines, and for most Filippinos it is a local issue that doesn't impact them. The biggest threat to Philippine government is the New People's Army and their subversive communist party of the Philippines (NPA and CPP), and even that threat isn't that critical currently.

Success in the Philippines is relatively easy compared to Afghanistan and Iraq for a number of reasons. First the Philippines used to be a U.S. colony (a Spainish one prior to that), and many of its citizens still speak English and share many common cultural values (I'm not implying they are a carbon copy of America, they have their own unique and vibrant culture, yet there are many common threads). Second there is only a fringe minority that truely aspires to live under anything even ressembling Sharia. Third they are a hard working people, if giving the means (carrots) they will build a good life for themselves.

I still find it amazing that many on this site think information operations is primarily about what NBC or some other news station blasts out to the American audience, instead of the target audience in the country we're trying to persuade. Remember this is COIN, and we want the host nation to get the credit so we can work ourselves out of a job. We don't want a bunch of our officers taking credit for saving the world on the news, we want HN officers leading the effort with our help quietly behind the scenes.

Remember the fairy tale like good news stories about building schools in Iraq? Yet, it was (and remains in many places) to dangerous to send the kids to school, and we accuse the press of not reporting the good news? Maybe if we got our priorities straight, and provided security first they would have? Fortunately we're finally starting to do that.

Where you have security opening a school or a medical clinic is a big deal, like in the Philippines, because it has a notable impact on their quality of life.

We need to embrace reality and subdue our egos, no press is good press in many situations.
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Old 03-12-2007   #12
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Default Clarification

Some of my comments on the previous post were taken out of context my some of my friends who are currently on point for our nation doing great work as quiet professionals. In effort to put the comments in a more appropriate context I want to add (reinforce) the following:

1. As stated I think the U.S. Government (State and Military) is doing great work in the Republic of the Philippines (ROP). I did NOT take issue with any of the Stars and Stripes articles, they were well written and accurate.

2. I do NOT think any officer or NCO in the chain of command is seeking publicity, as a matter of fact I think they are shying away from it, unless there is a strategic reason to do otherwise.

3. My comments were directed (for purpose of debate) to some members of the SWJ council who seem to be calling for "more" media coverage of what we're doing in the ROP, because it is a good news story. I disagree (the debate issue) that we need more press coverage, for the reasons I stated. I think our current level of media coverage is helpful and sufficient, and that more could potentially backfire.

4. I think the last thing we want is a PAO standing in front of the camera spouting off about all the good work we're doing, thus the comment we don't want a bunch of our officers taking credit for saving the world on the news (this is what we don't want, it isn't happening now). It sends the wrong message, because we facilitate, the host nation executes, and the HN takes credit for what they did, and we eventually go home.

5. While I understand some member's desire to see more positive media coverage, I think we need to check our egos (collectively) and quietly continue to do good work.

6. For those on point I think you're doing the right things and having great effect, so keep up the great work.
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Old 09-13-2007   #13
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Default Unconventional Warfare Focus on the Philippines Special Report

Are US Special Forces engaged in an ‘offensive war’ in the Philippines?


Quote:
Focus on the Global South is a non-profit policy analysis,research and campaigning organisation, working in national, regional and international coalitions and campaigns, and with social movements and grassroots organisations on key issues confronting the global south. Focus was founded in 1995 and is attached to the Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute (CUSRI) in Bangkok, Thailand. It has programs in the Philippines and India.
Quote:
Since January 2002, US Special Operations Forces (SOFs) have been stationed in the southern Philippines and have not left since then.

Last edited by sgmgrumpy; 09-13-2007 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 09-14-2007   #14
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Default Unconventional Warfare Focus on the Philippines Special Report

Global South has been conducting an excellent disinformation campaign. Very sophisticated. Herbert Docena is currently fixated on making allegations we are attemptong to re-establish bases in the Philippines. He does an excellent job of data mining from the internet and then selectively piecing together out of context quotes, facts, and documents (inlcuding my own!) to make his arguments that the US is doing something wrong in the Philippines. The fact remains the US is supporting an ally in its fight against terrorism. The US respects Philippine sovereignty has been very transparent in its actions in Mindanao despite what Global South and Herbert Docena allege. I would love to see the press analyze what Global South is doing and take a good look at their methods and motivations (other than what is stated on their web site).

V/R

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Old 09-14-2007   #15
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Default It is that. Sophisiticated, I mean. Transparent to

anyone with any experience but it'll fool many. Too many, unfortunately.

Slick presentation, too; takes big bucks to get a pub like that on the street. They're probably providing it free to University libraries worldwide...
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Old 09-14-2007   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by max161 View Post
Global South has been conducting an excellent disinformation campaign. Very sophisticated. Herbert Docena is currently fixated on making allegations we are attemptong to re-establish bases in the Philippines. He does an excellent job of data mining from the internet and then selectively piecing together out of context quotes, facts, and documents (inlcuding my own!) to make his arguments that the US is doing something wrong in the Philippines. The fact remains the US is supporting an ally in its fight against terrorism. The US respects Philippine sovereignty has been very transparent in its actions in Mindanao despite what Global South and Herbert Docena allege. I would love to see the press analyze what Global South is doing and take a good look at their methods and motivations (other than what is stated on their web site).

V/R

Dave

Sir,

Have either one of them every tried to talk to you personally?
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Old 09-14-2007   #17
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Default Global South and UW

Quote:
Originally Posted by RTK View Post
Sir,

Have either one of them every tried to talk to you personally?
Interesting that you should ask that. The answer is no, not that I know of. Our PAO has never been approached while I have been here in the last year. But I say that is interesting because today I had a conversation with a Philippine Army Public Information Officer who happens to be a university classmate of Herbert Docena. We were discussing his allegations on US bases and she told me that she challenged him on this very idea and asked he has never asked to interview me or Philippine military officials. Of course he is writing reports (and an occasional letter to the editor) and he does his research through data mining on the internet and as I mentioned by talking quotes and facts out of context. I do not think he cares about talking to anyone who might not give him something to confirm his preconceived notions. But it will be interesting to see if he takes up the PIO's challenge to him.

V/R

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Old 09-18-2007   #18
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Hi:

As of this posting, I admit to be firing from the hip.

I am pressed for time, but I simply have to comment regarding the bases.

Return of the US bases is a non-issue here in the Philippines. And to tell you frankly, anecdotal evidence suggests most Filipinos are happy with the American presence in Mindanao.

A caveat though. What did the US bases in was the fact that American policymakers until now appear not to understand the dynamics of Philippine nationalism.

My suggestion: study this first.


Cheers.
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Old 11-11-2007   #19
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The dynamics of Filipino Nationalism begin & end with $$$. Fact: The Philippine Senate was asking for $1.2 billion as rent for the U.S. bases annually (a huge mark up from the then, $800+ million) even though the U.S. was ready to give up ALL other bases/facilities here & just settle on Subic. Nationalism was the furtherest thing from their minds. It is only an after thought espoused by kids barely old enough to remember the bases being here & the $$$millions$$$ that were infused into the local economy because of it. I observed it going to college here & was quite amused. They complain about everything U.S., but their deepest desire is to immigrate to America. Go figure...

IMHO the best move the U.S. did was to leave the Philippines. This took away the "Kasi (because of you)" excuse making syndrome from Filipinos, at least as far as the U.S. was concerned. Sadly, the current "Stumble in the Jungle" is giving these loudmouths ammunition to once again blame the USofA for their ineptitude in becoming a successful country.

As for the bases on-going drama...I see it as piss-poor journalism. These Clowns are too lazy to do any real reporting, so they keep re-inventing the Boogey Man.

Fact: The GenSan base theory was an approved USAID project PRIOR to the closure of the bases for something like $144million, which was later reduced significantly after the termination of the lease on bases...period. This story keeps getting whipped around ad naseum.

General rule here: "Believe nothing you hear & only half (still verify that) of what you see."

The U.S. has no plans to even try to re-establish bases here according to offical statements...now, training areas is another subject & would be in-line with the Mutual Defense Treaty & VFA.
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Old 11-15-2007   #20
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Default reply to calm seas

Calm Seas:

I trust you are an American. Hence, I shall accept the fact that at times, you tend to be too forward in your speech.

The dynamics of Philippine nationalism begins with the opening of the Suez Canal, when inhabitants of the Spanish colony began to identify themselves as Fillipinos.

The US came in at the close of the 19th century--at a time when the first nationalist revolution in Asia and the last of the Hispanic revolutions was taking place in the Philippines.

That explains the love-hate relationship between the Philippines and the US.

Yes, the Philippines asked for US $1.2 billion. That's true.

But the US negotiators' handling of the bases issue showed how insensitive they were. And that's why a lot of Filipino senators remembered how the US backed the Marcos dictatorship until the end.

And that's why also , the anti-bases vote got through.

Moreover, a case can be made, the Philippines really did the US a big favor.

It was the end of the cold war, remember. Amercian bean counters would have started to view Subic and Clark as costly white elephants in need of major downsizing--at the very least.

That may have been financially rational. But for the US to have said it was getting out of the Philippines for reasons of money would have been a big political disaster for it.

I suggest that Americans by and large learn to be more sensitive to the aspirations of possible allies. Failure to do so would lead to disasters in the Long War.

Having said that, I am happy that Filipino-American relations are on the mend anew.
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