One thing certain about the use of the bases, whether they are intended to be rented out to the US, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan or Australia, is its main objective which is principally for our defense.
This remains the bone of contention when the Philippines renegotiated with the US for the stay of its military bases during the time of the Marcos administration then.
As the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos admitted, it was the hardheadedness of the Marcos administration by inserting so many demands by the US for the use of the bases.
First, when the Philippines was given the choice of independence in exchange for the bases, the country in truth did not have a choice.
We accepted the stay of the bases beyond the scheduled grant of Philippine independence.
We were only given two options, which is to accept their demand or to allow their stay without fanfare.
The stay of the US bases was already written in our Constitution by the delegates that drafted the 1935 Constitution.
It was not only the bases that the US ensured to remain in our Constitution but also made sure that US economic dominance was retained beyond the grant of our independence.
The ratification of the Bell Trade Act saw a remarkable split in Philippine politics and opened a rebellion by the Hukbalahap movement. The idea of rent came about during the renegotiation in the 1960s.
The concept of rent came about at a time when the US was already economically saddled with economic problems like expenditure caused by its involvement in the Vietnam War and the festering trade deficit with Japan.
The issue of wanting to keep the US bases in the country remained far-fetched from the minds of our nationalist leaders.
It was only during the Marcos administration when the idea of jurisdiction over the bases was re-enforced to justify the demand for payment similar to the payment made to Germany, UK, and Japan.
Nonetheless, the US managed to retain their jurisdiction over the US military bases by giving the ceremonial title of base commander to Filipinos and allowing the Philippine flag to be raised inside the two sprawling US bases at Clark Air Base and at Subic Naval Base.
In regard to our jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed by servicemen, the issue remained unresolved.
The US had dilly-dallied the handing of US servicemen who committed offenses in this country, arguing that the US was prohibited from handing over its own servicemen to a foreign country.
On the issue of rent for the use of the bases, this was extensively discussed during the Carter administration, using the phrase “doing their best efforts to pay the promised rent,” and enabled the country to obtain a $500 million in “economic assistance.”
The issue of jurisdiction over the use of foreign military bases remains pivotal whether to allow them in the territory.
It is crucial to our own survival, especially in our era when at any time the country can be wittingly or unwittingly be plunged in a nuclear war without its consent.
This gives many political analysts the reason why countries would never lease out a portion of their territory to a foreign power.
Having foreign military bases in their territory rented out is contrary to the concepts of sovereignty and independence.
Once rent is demanded, the country automatically loses its own bargaining leverage to determine its fate such that payment of rent partakes losing its own jurisdiction over the use of those bases.
Demanding rental for the use of the bases becomes much complicated for the Philippines as our ambassador might think, for the following reasons:
First, the demand for rental and not just about economic assistance partakes of a new treaty, like securing the ratification and approval by the Senate of said treaty, not through an executive agreement that circumvents the process mandated by our constitution.
Second, complying with the rent as demanded becomes a two-way affair as the Philippines would practically require the Philippines to beg from the US Congress to legislate an amount to pay their rental obligation.
There is always the anxiety the US will renege on its promise depending on the current economic situation in the US.
Third, seeking rental could override the use and previous agreements we entered into with the US like the issue of criminal jurisdiction, labor agreements, and payment of duties on imported items by US personnel.
Fourth, the grant of rent to US bases is to abrogate our inherent right to defend ourselves as an independent and sovereign state, foremost of which is our right to defend ourselves and in securing our territorial integrity.
Fifth, the lessee state is given the right to determine its own foreign policy direction including the use and how to operate those rented bases. The idea of determining what is important to us is rather silly and outlandish.
Sixth, it is much sillier to imagine that the Philippines could have the bases rented out, say to Taiwan, if it is important to our own security.
Such a phrase is illogical because no country would first seek the advice of other states on matters of securing our security.
It is not for other countries to determine whether it wants to go to war based on its status as lessee.
Maybe ambassador Romualdez has in mind the idea of short-cutting our agreement with the US that for years has been reluctant to pay the rent in the guise that we are not supposed to pay rent to secure our freedom and liberty.