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Veep: Government Should Have Been Tougher In Base Talks

October 20, 1988

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Vice President Salvador Laurel said today the government should have served notice it would close U.S. military bases before beginning talks with Washington on their future.

Laurel also said the new bases agreement shows that President Corazon Aquino plans to renew their lease when it expires in 1991.

The accord, signed Monday in Washington by U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz and Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus, allows the United States to maintain six military bases here in exchange for $962 million in military and economic aid during the lease’s last two years.

″Had we considered only the larger national interest instead of the purely mercenary consideration, we should have instead first issued a notice of termination,″ Laurel told foreign and local businessmen.

″It is obvious that the Aquino leadeship has already, if secretly, committed itself to renegotiate extension of the bases beyond 1991,″ Laurel added.

Laurel broke with the administration in September and formed his own political party after Mrs. Aquino refused his call for her to resign.

The Senate created a special committee Wednesday to determine whether the new bases agreement violates the Philippine Constitution.

The committee is also to determine whether the accord, actually an amendment to a 1947 agreement, is subject to approval by the Senate as some senators claim. Mrs. Aquino said it is not.

The agreement has been attacked by the press and various groups but Mrs. Aquino dismissed the criticism on Wednesday, and the largest political party in the Philippine Congress pledged to support it.

The United States had been paying $180 million a year for use of Clark Air Base, Subic Bay naval base and four smaller installations.

Despite the increase, the agreement has met with criticism because of the government raised expectations that it would hold out for $1.2 billion a year.

Mrs. Aquino argued that the agreement was for substantially more than the agreement negotiated by ousted President Ferdinand Marcos.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition he not be further identified, said the original Philippine demand was for nearly $2.4 billion a year.

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