By Al Jacinto, Correspondent Even as the United States denies plans to set up a military base in the Philippines, the American military is reportedly building a host of projects across Mindanao worth at least $14.4 million, according to a report by an international research group. The projects appear to be for military use, and construction is ongoing in Jolo, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao provinces. The report comes from Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based international research institute that has been monitoring US military activities in the Philippines. In a little-reported development that has come to the attention of the institute, the US Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) had on June 6 awarded a six-month, $14.4-million contract to a certain “Global Contingency Services LLC” of Irving, Texas, for “operations support” for the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).
According to its own website, the engineering command is the unit within the US military in charge of providing the US Navy with “operating, support and training bases.” It “manages the planning, design, and construction and provides public works support for US Naval shore installations around the world.”
Among the NAVFAC’s business lines are “bases development” and “contingency engineering.” The task force was established by the US Special Operations Command which has been stationed in Mindanao since 2002 and which Focus on the Global South believes has established a new kind of US basing in the country. According to the announcement by the Pentagon, the contract awarded to Global Contingency Services LLC includes “all labor, supervision, management, tools, materials, equipment, facilities, transportation, incidental engineering, and other items necessary to provide facilities support services.” Global Contingency Services is a joint venture between DynCorp International, Parsons Global Services, and PWC Logistics. The $14.4-million deal is actually part of a $450-million, five-year contract for Global Contingency Services to “provide a full range of worldwide contingency and disaster-response services, including humanitarian assistance and interim or transitional base-operating support services.” Focus said the task force has not only been involved in Philippine military operations, it also represents the new kind of more austere, more low-profile kind of overseas presence that the US wants to achieve.
A Philippine commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement on Friday said that the US was not building bases but living quarters for troops training local soldiers.
But Focus said on Saturday that the Philippines is listed by the US Overseas Basing Commission as developing “cooperative security locations.” The Philippines is also described by the US Congressional Research Service, an American government body, as a supply base for military operations throughout the region. US troops refer to their base in Mindanao as “Advanced Operating Base-920. “According to the US Department of Defense’s definition, ‘Cooperative Security Locations’—of which the Philippines are confirmed by the OBC to be hosting—are facilities technically owned by host governments that would only be used by the US in case of actual operations; though they could be visited and inspected by the US.
“They would most likely be run and maintained by host-nation personnel or even private contractors; useful for pre-positioning logistics support or as venues for joint operations with host militaries. They are, however, considered as US military facilities by the Pentagon,” Focus said.
The Manila Times tried to get a reaction from the US Embassy in Manila on Sunday, but embassy spokesman Lee McClenny could not be reached for comment. On Saturday, five US lawmakers visited Zamboanga City, where hundreds of American troops are stationed. The contingent was headed by Rep. Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Statements by Reyes about not cutting military aid to the Philippines was welcomed by Rep. Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, chairman of the Philippine House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Philippine government should follow up on the commitment of no aid cut for the Armed Forces, Cuenco said in a press release. The US Defense Department had reportedly proposed to the US Congress a drastic cut in aid to the Philippine military and police because of their alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings.
The proposed cut includes the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for procurement of military equipment from the US from nearly $30 million last year to only $11 million in fiscal year 2008 starting this September, and the International Military Exchange Training (IMET) program for sending and training Filipino military officers in the US, from $2.9 million to $1.5 million.