BY SAUL HOFILEÑA JR.
DEC 07, 2022 12:00 AM
THE Pacific Ocean is 64 million square miles in size and lies between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines, and so vast is this body of water that if you relocate the seven continents and 15 subcontinents and put them inside the Pacific Ocean, you will still have sufficient space for navigation.
Well-to-do Filipinos shop at Guam, where things are cheap without realizing that this unincorporated territory of the United States, has three military bases. Most have heard of Midway Island, Wake Island and Pearl Harbor but not of Johnston Island, and Howland and Baker Islands. Both are US overseas possessions in the Pacific with outstanding strategic importance.
It was in the Pacific, in the Battle of Midway, did Japan suffer its first naval defeat. The battle proved the power of aircraft carriers, specifically American ones, as dominant weapons of war. Before Midway was the Battle of Coral Sea where the US and Japanese naval and air forces fought a war in the most confused battle area in world history, according to an American vice admiral. Guadalcanal, South of the Pacific, was the site of fierce land and sea battles for six months. It was from the South Pacific that the Americans launched the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of the war. The Battle of the Philippine Sea was also staged in the Pacific area of operations.
Parenthetically, the atom bomb that killed 80,000 Japanese and left 70 percent of Hiroshima in ruins on Aug. 6, 1945 was dropped by Enola Gay, a plane which took off from Tinian in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific. The second bomb, which claimed 40,000 lives in Nagasaki, was dropped by Bockscar, a B-29 bomber which also departed from Tinian.
Indeed, because of its strategic importance and the American lives lost to protect it, and it being the gateway to the United States, America will never give up its territories and influence in the Pacific without a fight.
After the Second World War, the Pacific served as the testing ground of weapons of mass destruction and the stomping field of military hardware. Aside from its strategic value, the Pacific also has vast quantities of resources which are now being mined by private companies. There are "smokers" from where superheated water gushes from vents releasing melted minerals from underneath the earth's crust like lead, zinc sulfides, copper, silver and gold. These minerals are sent up by the pressures of the earth to the underwater surface and are, in turn, mined by companies with special equipment. There are marvelous aquatic creatures yet unknown to man. Oil and gas resources are buried beneath the Philippines' continental shelves.
A closer look at the map of the Pacific shows that the area is an immense oceanic highway. One can reach Alaska, the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean by sailing north. Eastward is the coast of California and parts of Mexico. To the South lie Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Various exotic islands are also found in the Pacific basin like: Tuvalu, Nauru, the Mariana Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and the Yap Islands where coins made of stone were once so huge these towered over the heads of its inhabitants. The future of international tourism rests in the Pacific Ocean's unfathomable and yet undiscovered wonders. Despite its apparent calmness which spurred Magellan to call it mar Pacifico — peaceful sea — incredible adventures as well as unseen dangers lurk above and beneath its deceptively tranquil sea lanes.
The Philippines, for centuries a colony, has always been protected by blue water navies: Spain shielded its only colony in Asia with an armada of battleships, corvettes and war frigates. After the Treaty of Paris was signed between Spain and the USA in December 1898, the latter invaded and occupied the Philippines. After independence from the United States in 1946, amid the destruction of the Second World War, naval, military and air force bases continued to be maintained by the Americans, principally in Sangley Point in Cavite, Subic Bay in Zambales and Clark in Pampanga. These American bases gave the Filipinos a false sense of security that contributed greatly to a lack of military preparedness and utter dependence on the United States.
After these bases were dismantled; Sangley Point Naval Base in 1971, Clark in 1991 and Subic in 1992, the "Kitty Hawk incident" occurred in October 2006. It involved the US aircraft carrier "Kitty Hawk" which was sailing halfway between Okinawa and Palau in the Pacific with its usual retinue of submarine and aircraft escorts, destroyers and cruisers. Out of nowhere, a Chinese Song class submarine barely not 5 miles from the carrier appeared. The presence of the Chinese sub with its capability to sink an aircraft carrier rattled Americans to no end for it showed that China also has its eye not only on the South China Sea but also on the Pacific.
Someday soon, this mighty ocean, which is pacific yet headstrong, will again play a prominent role in our country's history. You can take these words as a threat.
Article taken from ManilaTimes.net: https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/12/17/opinion/columns/the-headstrong-pacific/1870602/amp