There is a bothersome flaw in the way some Philippine officials treat the operation of major American military bases in their country.
They seem to view the United States as a tenant making fat profits from its occupancy of valuable real estate, and thus the fitting target for a hefty rent increase. A landlord in such a situation can hardly be blamed for charging as much as possible.The trouble is, the U.S.-Philippine relationship is not a commercial tenant-landlord affair. The two countries are allies with a range of mutual interests.
The strong U.S. presence in Asia serves the defense needs of both, and our bases in the Philippines are a longstanding investment of mutual benefit. Both nations would lose from a scrapping of the basing agreement, with the Philippines winding up worse off than the United States.
The latter would have to spend large amounts duplicating at least some of the air and naval facilities elsewhere in the Pacific. The loss to the Philippines would be of a different order.
Besides weakened security, a U.S. pullout would terminate 70,000 jobs held by Filipinos, with a $96 million annual payroll, plus many millions spent in the local economy to supply the bases and support 40,000 American personnel and dependents. Philippine stability would not be helped.
A more distant relationship with Washington also could harm prospects for U.S. economic aid.
It is doubtful that the government of President Corazon Aquino seriously contemplates such an outcome, despite the hard line taken by its negotiators on terms for the two remaining years of the current basing agreement and Aquino's noncommittal stance on renewal after 1991.
Talks have been suspended, with the U.S. balking at Philippine demands for $1 billion or more in annual compensation, compared with the present $180 million.
Some Philippine politicians specialize in nationalistic complaints about the U.S. presence and in attempts to render the bases inoperative by banning nuclear arms.
Most Filipinos, we think, prefer a continuance of the security partnership and historic friendship between the countries.
During Secretary of State Shultz's recent visit to Manila, it was noted that anti-U.S. demonstrators were far outnumbered by Filipinos seeking visas at the U.S. Embassy.
We hope Aquino will admit soon that Clark and Subic mean more to the Philippines than a chance to profit like a gouging landlord.