Subic Bay Naval Station
The 12-15 June 1991, eruption of Mount Pinatubo volcano, located 100 kilometers northwest of Manila in the Philippines, was the largest eruption in the past five decades and led to the largest recorded evacuation of people due to a volcanic threat. US forces left the Philippines after Mount Pinatubo erupted, forcing American service members and families to flee and smothering Subic Bay and Clark Air Base under tons of volcanic ash and debris. The cataclysm essentially ended the US military presence. US forces abandoned Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base after the Philippine government voted not to renew a basing agreement in 1992.
The Philippine Senate rejected the newly negotiated base agreement and set in motion a total US withdrawal. In late December 1991, after several months of discussions on the possibility of an extended withdrawal agreement, the Philippine Government notified the United States that in accordance with the treaty, US forces must be withdrawn from Subic Naval Base and Cubi Point Naval Air Station by the end of 1992. The high value of the Subic/Cubi Point facility was its geographic location and the availability of all major training and logistics functions at a single site.
Roughly 4,100 of the some 5,900 military billets at Subic were disestablished. Many of these were positions that supported the base infrastructure (for example, personnel who worked in the Naval Supply Depot or Naval Magazine) and were no longer necessary. Some of these personnel drawdowns would have occurred as a part of the Phase II reductions even if the Philippine Senate had approved the long-term agreement negotiated with the Philippine Government. Of the remainder, some 1,200 military personnel from Subic transfered to Guam. That move included VRC-50 (the airborne logistics support squadron for the Seventh Fleet), Naval Special Warfare Unit One (SEALs), Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit Five, and personnel from a number of other units such as the Ship Repair Facility and the Naval Hospital.
The US -Philippine security relationship has evolved since the withdrawal of US military bases in 1991-92. The US is gradually establishing a post-bases relationship that is consistent with US activities elsewhere in the region -- exercises, ship visits, exchanges, and policy dialogues. Upon ratification by the Philippine Senate, the January 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement, which lays out the legal status of US defense personnel temporarily in the Philippines in connection with official duties, facilitated expanded military cooperation. The new agreement reaffirms obligations established under a US-Philippine mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 that requires the United States to help defend the Philippines should it be attacked. It provides legal protections for DoD personnel serving in the Philippines and their hosts. It requires US service members to respect Philippine laws and to abstain from activities inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement. The Philippine Senate's ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States allowed US Navy ships to visit Manila.
Subic Bay on the island of Luzon is approximately 4 n mi wide and 9 n mi long. The entrance to Subic Bay opens seaward to the southwest and Grande Island, located in the mouth of the bay, divides the entrance into two channels. The main channel, lying to the west of Grande Island is wide, deep, and clear of obstructions.
Port Olongapo consists of an outer harbor and an inner basin. The port complex is approximately 1 1/2 miles wide between Cubi Point and Kalaklan Point and extends about 1 1/2 miles eastward to the coast. The inner basin lies between Maritan Point and Rivera Point, with the Naval Supply Depot terminal pier extending from its northeast shore. The shore is extremely steep-to with little shoaling effect (the building in magnitude of waves when the water depth reaches one-half their wavelength) extending beyond a quarter mile offshore. When Subic Bay was a US Navy installation, all facilities were available for assignment to US Navy vessels.
There are 6 wharves and 2 piers which serve as primary berthing spaces for vessels entering the Port Olongapo complex. There are also 13 supplementary berths which are used for small craft only. There are more than 160 anchorages in water depths of 70 to 150 ft with soft mud or coral bottom in Subic Bay. Mooring buoys for all sizes of ships are available and assigned by the Port Operations Officer.
Analysts classifying Subic Bay as a typhoon haven have done so with certain reservations or qualifications. It is true that many ships have successfully weathered the numerous typhoons which have affected Subic Bay. However, it is also a fact that Subic Bay has never really been tested by the passage of a truly severe tropical cyclone. Those storms whose eyes have crossed directly over Subic Bay have been relatively weak storms; in the case of severe tropical cyclones the eyes have only come close, with the strongest winds missing Subic Bay by 50-100 n mi, and the remaining winds being further reduced by the topography of the surrounding terrain. The highest sustained wind recorded during the period 1955-1973 was 56 kt. The sheltering effect provided by the surrounding terrain qualifies Subic Bay as a much safer port in heavy weather than Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, or Chilung (Keelung). However, large combatants (CVA, cruisers, etc.) would find the relatively small size of Subic Bay restrictive. The cost in terms of time and money of evasion would be small since the evasion routes are short and direct.
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