THE United States is hoping for a pact by early next year that will permit access to naval, training, and air facilities in the Philippines while gradually withdrawing American forces, the US ambassador said yesterday. But Ambassador Nicholas Platt rejected a suggestion by Philippine President Corazon Aquino that the future of the giant Clark Air Base and four smaller facilities was already sealed. ``We are still very much at the beginning of the negotiating process, and we need to do a lot more talking before we come to any kind of a final agreement,'' Mr. Platt said.
The US and the Philippines adjourned talks Friday on the future of America's largest overseas military bases and agreed to resume negotiations in October while technical committees took up specific issues.
The lease on Clark, Subic Bay Naval Station, and other facilities expires in September 1991.
During the talks, the Philippines government said it wanted to recover control of Clark and the facilites other than Subic Bay when the lease ends. Mrs. Aquino said Monday that continued US use of Subic Bay was negotiable.
Chief US negotiator Richard Armitage suggested a gradual phasing out of US forces that would allow a continued US presence in the former American colony into the next century. Some Philippine officials want a complete American withdrawal in less than five years.
Platt said there should be a transition period for handing over Clark and Subic Bay, which employ 78,000 Filipino workers and pour $1 billion a year into the Philippines economy. He also said that the US, which currently has 17,000 servicemen stationed in the Philippines, wants to secure continued access to the facilities after the bulk of US forces iswithdrawn.
He said the US was ``interested in maintaining access to training at Crow Valley and some training areas at Subic, the military air command flight line at Clark, which is essentially a big airlift capability, and ship repair facilities at Subic.''