The RP-US Military Bases Agreement

Have you ever been to Clark, Subic and Camp John Hay? You may probably know these areas as special economic zones or industrial estates. But at one time, these were former US military bases. It is a product of the so called RP-US Military Bases Agreement of 1947.

What is MBA. The Military Bases Agreement of 1947 (MBA) is a joint agreement between the Philippines and the United States signed on March 16, 1947. This treaty officially allowed the US to establish, maintain and operate air and naval bases in the country. It provided for about 23 listed bases and utilities for use by Americans for a period of 99 years. Most important of these bases were the 180,000 acres Clark Air Base in Pampanga, the biggest American airbase outside of the continental USA; and the Subic Naval Base in Zambales. Other provisions of the 29-article MBA are the following:

  • Mutual protection and cooperation between the two countries including the use of American and Philippine military installations
  • Philippine government was prohibited from granting any bases to any other nation without US consent
  • The US was permitted to recruit Filipino citizens, on voluntary basis, for service in American military
  • American base commanders had the right to tax, distribute utilities, hand out licenses, search without warrants, and deport undesirables
  • Complementing the MBA was the signing of the Military Assistance Agreement of 1947 and the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.

Disputes and Questions in the MBA. Disputes eventually developed concerning certain provisions of the treaty. These include the issue on the vast land occupied by the bases and criminal jurisdiction. Filipino nationalists also noted that the bases could invite attack from a country hostile to the US which will eventually drag our country into a war.

Revisions in the MBA

Aug. 11 – Dec. 5, 1956 The Garcia-Bendetsen conference resolved the issue of jurisdiction in the American bases. The US began to recognize sovereignty of the Philippine government over the base lands.
Oct. 28, 1959 Olongapo, which was then an American territory, was officially turned over by the US to the Philippines. Over the years, 17 of the 23 military installations were also turned over to the Philippines.
Aug. 10, 1965 An agreement was signed revising Article XIII of the treaty wherein the US will renounce exclusive jurisdiction over the on-base offenses and the creation of a joint criminal jurisdiction committee.
Sept. 16, 1966 The Ramos-Rusk Agreement reduced the term of the treaty to 25 years starting from that year.
1979 The MBA Review of 1979 led to the formal control of the Philippines of Clark and Subic. Thus, making it Philippine military installations with US facilities inside it. It also provided for each base to be under a Filipino base commander; the Philippine flag to fly singly in the bases; the Philippine government was to provide security along the bases’ perimeter; and the review of the agreements every five years starting 1979.
1988 The Manglapus-Shultz Agreement provided for an increased compensation for the bases.

MBA Terminated. On Sept. 16, 1991, the Senate rejected the proposed RP-US Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Security that will extend the bases to ten more years. Subsequently, the MBA was terminated on Dec. 21, 1992 when the 25-year tenure lapsed. Thus, prompting the US to vacate its bases effectively by the end of December 1992. The departure of the US warship Bellau Wood marked the closure of American military bases in the country.

After the US turn over of the military bases, the government transformed it into economic zones spearheaded by the Bases Conversion Development Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and the Clark Development Corporation. The government also restored American military presence in the country through a new form known as the Balikatan exercises or the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) ratified by the Senate on May 27, 1999.

*Published in Student’s Digest Gr.5, Vol.26, No.6, SY 2005-2006                                by Azur M. Peraz

References: Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People. Quezon City: GAROTECH Publishing, Inc., 1990.; Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People vols. 8 – 9. Manila: Asia Publishing Ltd., 1998.; Pobre, Ceasar P. (ed.) Historical Bulletin vol. 34: RP-US Relations: A Historical Perspective. Quezon City: Philippine Historical Association and New Day Publishers, Inc., 2005.; Shalom, Stephen Rosskamm The United States and the Philippines: A Study of Neocolonialism. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, Inc., 1986.; Zaide, Gregorio F. and Sonia M. The Philippines: A Unique Nation. Quezon City: All Nations Publishing, Inc., 1994.; Photo credits:


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