The Philippines announced today that it had closed the giant Clark Air Base to Australian forces to protest what is called a "highly offensive statement" about the government of President Ferdinand Marcos by Australian Foreign Minister Bill Hayden.
The move was largely symbolic because no Australian units are stationed at the base, which is headquarters for the U.S. 13th Air Force, and none had been expected until sometime next year to take part in a training exercise.
It was unclear how long the ban would be in effect or whether it was intended, in part, as a gesture to the United States, which has also been critical of Marcos' performance.
"Human rights abuses by some organs of the government and resolute inaction against privileges and political power of its wealthy oligarchic patrons have provided fertile ground for the growth of the insurgency, which now constitutes a serious threat," Hayden said.
Clark and the nearby Subic Bay Naval Base, which host 38,000 Americans, are the largest U.S. foreign military facilities. They are the main source of leverage in negotiating with Washington.
The government is already plotting strategy for talks with the United States that will begin late in the decade as expiration approaches leasing agreements.
Sources close to the bases negotiations said a Cabinet-level committee reviewing U.S.-Philippine relations had recommended letting the lease expire in 1991 if the Philippines fails to get more compensation from Washington. The seven-man committee, headed by Prime Minister Cesar Virata, discussed a series of policy options concerning the bases agreement, which is up for review in 1988.
The official Philippine News Agency said today that Acting Foreign Minister Pacifico Castro issued a formal protest to the Australian Embassy here concerning Hayden's remarks, which were made before the Australian Parliament Nov. 26.
In a separate note to the U.S. Embassy, the government said that no Australian aircraft could land or use the base for any purpose, including the training of Australian military personnel.
In his parliamentary remarks, Hayden said that the Marcos government faced severe economic dislocation and that many people were understandably dissatisfied with its political and economic record.