In recent years, the United States has struggled to persuade the Philippine government and the country's citizens it is serious about honoring its commitments under the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). China has been feeding this growing mistrust, hoping to drive a wedge between the two long-standing allies to the point one or both will move to terminate the treaty.
Twenty-seven years ago, the stars and stripes were hauled down for the final time at Naval Base Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, fulfilling the U.S. obligations to withdraw all military forces and vacate all bases after the Philippine Senate rejected a new military-bases agreement in September 1991. This ended 94 years of U.S.-military basing arrangements in the Philippines. At the time there was no peer competitor in the western Pacific, and then-Pacific Commander Admiral Charles Larson announced a new Pacific and Indian Ocean regional strategy of “places not bases,” which remains the strategy today. In 1998, a new visiting forces agreement was finally signed, allowing U.S. military personnel and ship visits to the Philippines. In 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed.1