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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte repeats FALSE claim that U.S. has ‘so many bases’ in PH

Former president Rodrigo Duterte says the United States has “so many bases” in the Philippines, which was made possible with the “consent” of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Rodrigo Duterte 2024-04-12 False

The U.S. no longer has permanent military bases in the Philippines. The 1987 Constitution prohibited the continued stay of the bases after the 1991 expiration of the Military Bases Agreement between the two countries. It said U.S. military bases, troops or facilities may be allowed only under a treaty approved by Congress and ratified by the people in a referendum, and recognized by the other state. In February 2023, however, Marcos granted the U.S. access to four new EDCA sites: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan.

In an exclusive interview with Global Times, China’s state-owned daily, former president Rodrigo Duterte once again claimed that the United States (U.S.) “[has] so many bases in the Philippines now.” He said this was made possible with the “consent” of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

This is false. VERA Files has previously debunked similar claims from Duterte and his then-Foreign Affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

(Read VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte falsely claims there are still U.S. military bases in PH and VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Cayetano wrong to claim U.S. has military bases in PHL, Taiwan)

The U.S. no longer has permanent military bases in the Philippines. 

In September 1991, the U.S. shut down its naval base in Subic following the Senate’s rejection of a proposed treaty extending its stay. Three months earlier, the Americans had abandoned Clark Air Base, the other major U.S. installation in the Philippines, after it was buried in volcanic ash from the eruption of the nearby Mount Pinatubo and eventually closed.

The 1987 Constitution prohibits the continued stay of its bases in the country after the 1991 expiration of the Military Bases Agreement between the two countries. Section 25, Article VIII of the Charter states that foreign military bases, troops or facilities may be allowed on Philippine territory only under a treaty ratified by the Senate and, if required by Congress, by the people in a national referendum.  The treaty must then be recognized by the other state.

In February 2023, Marcos granted the U.S. access to four additional Philippine bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan. 

This brought to nine the total number of EDCA sites in the country where the U.S. can hold joint training, build facilities and store defense equipment and supplies.

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Sources

Global Times, GT exclusive: Former Philippine president Duterte warns Manila to turn back from detrimental path, resolve disputes through dialogue, April 12, 2024

Official Gazette of the Philippines, The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: Article VIII, Sec. 25, Accessed April 17, 2024

The New York Times, Philippine Senate votes to reject U.S. base renewal, Sept. 16, 1991

The Washington Post, U.S. base rejected in the Philippines, Sept. 10, 1991

Los Angeles Times, Manila Senate Rejects U.S. Pact : Philippines: The 12-11 vote would bar American use of Subic Bay Naval Base. Washington supports Aquino’s call for a popular referendum to overturn the action, Sept. 16, 1991

Presidential Communications Office, Palace: 4 additional EDCA sites to boost PH humanitarian, relief operations in disasters, April 3, 2023

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Document: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, April 29, 2014

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)