A handful of "nationalist" legislators is threatening to push the U. S. Navy out of its Subic Bay base, despite wide public support for the American military presence there. The two countries signed an agreement on Aug. 27 allowing the Navy to use the base for an additional 10 years. But so far, political insiders say, backers of the accord have been able to line up only 14 firm yes votes of the 16 needed for ratification by the 23-member Philippine Senate. If the pact is rejected, the U. S. will have to pull out of Subic and smaller military facilities within a year after Sept. 16, when current leases expire. Washington is giving up Clark Air Base, now buried under volcanic ash from erupting Mt. Pinatubo.
Opponents led by Senate President Jovito Salonga argue that U. S. bases have perpetuated a "colonial mentality"--or that the $203 million annual payment offered by the U. S. isn't enough. They reflect opposition to the bases in the Manila media, influenced by vocal leftists and intellectuals.
But U. S. Representative Stephen J. Solarz (D-N. Y.), chairman of the House Asian & Pacific Affairs subcommittee, has a blunt message for the Filipino legislators. He will tell them, aides say, that "this is the best deal the Philippines is likely to get, and they'd be fools not to accept it." Solarz was scheduled to arrive in Manila at the end of August to reinforce a massive lobbying campaign by Aquino, the Philippine armed forces, and business groups in support of the pact.
So far, the Senate hasn't scheduled a debate on the agreement. If it doesn't act by Sept. 16, the U. S. Navy is likely to start at least preliminary steps to withdraw. A pullout could eventually weaken other ties between the two countries--including special trade benefits for the Philippines. On Manila's two stock exchanges, a yes vote by the Senate is expected to touch off a strong rally, while a no should trigger a steep plunge.