G.I Joe Returns!

G.I Joe is still the be-all and end-all of the Philippines’ defense posture in Southeast Asia particularly in the contested water lanes of the South China Sea, which is mostly claimed by China.

In November 1991, when the Stars and Stripes was lowered for the last time in the former US-run Clark Air Base, teary-eyed bar girls in the honky-tonk district of Fields Avenue who have G.I boyfriends went in droves at the Clark Parade Ground to bid goodbye. With the sound of “TAPS,” the American flag had been lowered down after the Mount Pinatubo volcano nearby spewed fire and brimstones which speeded up their departure from the US military base, the biggest outside the US mainland after nearly a century of presence.

No new basing treaty had been signed by the Philippines and the United States. But in 1998, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) had been agreed upon by the two allies which contained guidelines for the conduct and protection of US troops visiting the Philippines, and stipulated the terms and conditions for the American military to enter Philippine territory.

From then on, the VFA led to the establishment of the Balikatan exercises, as well as a variety of other cooperative measures between the Philippines and the US.

Several years after the US forces left Clark, G.I Joe returns once more with modern war machines conducting joint military exercises with their inferior Filipino counterparts. During the Balikatan 2023, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Korean-made FA-50s fly with the USAF’s F22 Raptors. On the final days of Balikatan 2023, USAF’s F-16s had been seen flying in and out of the Clark International Airport’s runway.

The Clark airport’s old parallel runway used to be the US 13th Air Force’s runway for their F-4 Phantoms, C-17 Starlifters, C-130s, C5 Galaxy and so forth. Remember “Operation Baby Lift”? The US operation that brought Vietnamese orphans to the Clark Air Base in the 70s and then on to the United States. These Clark runways had served as silent witnesses to that bygone era.

Ok, now that the Balikatan joint military exercises ended, what’s in store for the Philippines? Did the US Government leave war material to the inferior Filipino soldiers behind? Old or refurbshed AR-15s, F-16s or what have you are just ok.

Under the PH-US partnership, the Philippine military will reportedly have:
• Deepening alliance cooperation and interoperability through Bilateral Defense Guidelines adoption across multiple domains.

• Enhancing AFP maritime and tactical lift capabilities via transfer of patrol vessels and C-130H aircraft.
The live-fire exercises that reverberated near the shores of San Antonio, in Zambales province in the final days of Balikatan 2023 in the presence of no other than the Commander-in-Chief – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is a portent of the defense posture of the Philippines in case of a shooting war with China, the great bully of Southeast Asia.

Zambales is facing the contested waters in the West Philippine Sea and will play a major defense posture to both PH and US military in case the tension with China escalate to arm conflict in the region.

Amid the live-fire exercises, the real intention here is to preserve peace in the region particularly in the contested international water ways.

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