Manila: The presidential palace said it is firm on its plan to provide US forces with access to its former base in the Philippines as it expressed readiness to convince Senators about the plan.

In her regular Saturday radio interview, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the palace was open the discussing with lawmakers the plan to provide Americans with access to its former military installations, in particular, the Subic Bay in Zambales.

The discussions with Senators are aimed at allaying the apprehensions of lawmakers that the plan to provide “access” to US forces would be violating a constitutional provision safeguarding the country’s sovereignty.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines was ready to provide the US and other strategic allies access to its bases to counter China’s aggressive activities in the region.

Valte said the Aquino administration was willing to discuss the issue with the senators while the defence department irons out the legal intricacies involved allowing US forces to temporarily station their forces in their previous military base.

“Of course we are open to their concerns. We also understand their concerns and which is why we are open to having these discussions,” Valte said.

There were reports that the US had plans to revive its base in Subic, but as Garzmin said, such a move was not longer necessary. “Let me clarify issues, we’re not going to construct bases, we will be accepting access. Right now the agreement has not been firmed up, we are in crafting the agreement based on our constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” the defence chief said.

The Philippines Constitution prohibits a permanent base for foreign troops in the country, however, it is silent on the matter of a “rotational presence of American soldiers” under the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

American forces are currently using Subic for resupplying and for its larger, deeper draft ships such as destroyers, cruisers and submarines. But according to Gazmin, an “access agreement” was discussed by the Philippines and the US during a ministerial consultation in Washington last year.

Gazmin said once the planned increased presence of US military was realised, it would give visiting US warships more security to launch operations in the West Philippines Sea.

Constructed during the early 1900s mainly as a ship repair facility, Subic once hosted one of the largest American naval bases outside of the US.

Its importance in Southeast Asia was most felt during the Cold War between the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States in the 1970s when the US used the facility as staging areas for its forces fighting in Vietnam.