(Tribune News Service) It’s been more than three decades since the Philippines ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from their sprawling military bases in the country, ending an era that hearkened back to America’s colonial days.

Now the man overseeing the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority — once home to the U.S.’s biggest naval base in Asia — wants them back.

A recently revived defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines could “be a welcome development for us” if American forces return to Subic Bay, said Rolen Paulino, the authority’s chairman, in an interview. “When they come here they spend money, go to hotels, go to restaurants — plus tourists.”

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Paulino isn’t alone. Beyond the local economic benefits, the Philippines’ strategic location means that a renewed U.S. presence would be a huge asset to Washington in case of a conflict over Taiwan.

In contrast to earlier decades, when the U.S.-Philippine alliance was seen as skewed toward Washington, now Manila has security concerns of its own.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s government is looking to counter a record number of Chinese incursions in the disputed South China Sea that have seen Filipino fishing ships harassed or driven away from traditional waters. Public outcry erupted last month when a Chinese coast guard vessel aimed a laser at a Philippine ship.

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