In his 5th SONA, President Duterte comments on a report that the Americans plan to return to Subic under a commercial deal

President Rodrigo Duterte in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27, rejected the idea of having the United States return to Subic Bay.

Duterte mentioned this as he reiterated his push for an “independent foreign policy,” saying he neither favored America nor China.

The President mentioned news reports he read weeks ago that said the US was intending to return to its formal naval base.

“I have nothing against America. I have nothing against China. But if you put bases here you double the spectacle of a most destructive thing,” Duterte said.

Duterte said he feared “war would break out” in the Philippines if the US were to place bases in the country once more, alleging it would mean there would be nuclear weapons in the country.

An article in May by One News’ Manuel Mogato, a veteran defense reporter, said the US Navy was planning to return to its former base in the Philippines under a commercial deal.

The US bases have long been out of the country after the Philippines in 1991 ended a key agreement allowing for their presence.

What the Philippines and US have in place now is a Visiting Forces Agreement, which Duterte terminated in February, a move that eventually did not push through as he suspended its abrogation in June.

The military deal is crucial as it operationalizes the two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

What Duterte failed to mention is that the EDCA is clear on its ban on the prepositioning of nuclear weapons. Section 6 in Article IV of the agreement specifically says “the prepositioned materiel shall not include nuclear weapons.”

Duterte’s latest words against the US come as he praised China for arresting the coronavirus pandemic “on time” and said he pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines in supplying an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, Duterte said the Philippines will continue to work with global parters and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to secure Filipinos’ “peace, progress and security.” –