2011-09-22 US government secretly stored nuclear weapons in the Philippines

Just recently, the United States Ambassador in Manila inaugurated a $26 million dollar nuclear detection facility at the Port of Manila, a project aimed at combating the proliferation of nuclear weapons and radioactive material.

The public relations event however may be deemed as part of US nuclear hypocrisy when one considers the historical relations the Philippines had with the US and its nuclear weapons and military bases.

Based on a declassified document from the independent non-governmental organization National Security Archive based in the George Washington University, the US government had secretly stored nuclear weapons in the Philippines, during the time of the Marcos dictatorship.

According to the “Top Secret” document issued in 1969 from the US State Department, Marcos was informed of the storage of nuclear weapons in the Philippines (presumably in the former US bases) as early as 1966 but that the secret storage of nuclear weapons had been going on for "many years".

The memo said that “divulgence of the fact that nuclear weapons are stored in the Philippines, and have been there for many years without prior consultation with the Philippine government, would greatly jeopardize US-Philippine relations, particularly on the eve of presidential elections scheduled on October 11.”

The Philippines previously hosted two of the largest overseas military bases of the US, the Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base. Both were used extensively during the Vietnam War as well as the first Gulf War.

The memorandum was issued in response to a Senate inquiry led by Sen. Stuart Symington into CIA operations in Laos and the storage of US nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. The memo sought to provide instructions to State Department officials on how to deal with questions of nuclear weapons storage and what to do if sensitive information on nuclear weapons in the Philippines would be divulged to the media.

The State Department was concerned that giving a “no comment” reply to the US Senate probe would only confirm the existence of nukes in the Philippines. Exactly 20 years ago, the Philippine Senate voted not to renew the US bases treaty, thereby ending four decades of US bases in the Philippines.

The memo proposed that if there was a possibility that sensitive, and potentially embarrassing information, would be leaked to the media, the State Department and Secretary of Defense will– off the record — admit to the existence of nuclear weapons in the Philippines, but will request Senate committee members not to divulge the information.

According to the memo, since Marcos knew of the weapons and the US Senate sub-committee presumably knew as well.

The National Security Archive, which hosts a wide range of declassified US documents, “is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” according to its website.

Questions on US nuclear hypocrisy arise when the US acts as if it is concerned with the nuclear weapons entering the Philippines despite having secretly stored nuclear weapons in the country without informing the Philippine government.

This chapter of Philippine history should be revisited and the US should be called to task for its deception. The memorandum is also a reminder why activists had fiercely opposed the retention of US bases in the country 20 years ago.

In the inauguration of the nuclear detection facility, US Ambassador Harry Thomas said that “the US and the Philippines have a long history of cooperation and shared many bonds and common values. These shared values are shown here today with our mutual commitment to improve security and safety in the maritime shipping industry.” The so-called shared bonds and values however are tainted with US deception. The US also has a long history of connivance with the dictator Marcos in concealing the presence of nuclear weapons in the Philippines.

Problems with VFA

Under the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, Philippine authorities have no way of determining if US warships entering the country are carrying nuclear weapons. Philippine authorities are prohibited from inspecting US ships, both their contents and their personnel.

The US government’s hi-tech nuclear detection device in the Port of Manila does not apply to US warships that freely enter the Philippines under the past and present administrations. We will never know if these ships are bringing in nuclear weapons, nuclear waste or other weapons of mass destruction.

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