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On June 15, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo, located 32 kilometers from Subic Bay, erupted with such a magnitude covering a large area. A huge mushroom-like cloud caused darkness followed by rain and wet sand. Later in the night time, volcanic earthquakes combined with heavy rain, lightning and thunder from a passing typhoon created a spectacularly “hell-like” impact on the area.
Within 24 hours, Subic Bay had been buried below 30 centimeters of rain-soaked, volcanic ash, causing many buildings to collapse and the loss of electricity and telecommunications. The clean up and repair took many months. The nearby Clark Air Force base of the US in Pampanga was declared a total loss and closed.
This left Subic Bay as the US military’s largest overseas defense facility.
The base, however, did not remain operational much longer as the Philippine Senate voted on September 13, 1991, to reject the ratification of the Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation,” an agreement pivotal in extending the future lease of American bases in the Philippines.
The USA and the Philippines continued to negotiate an extension that would allow a prolonged withdrawal of US military but these talks broke down due to issues with the American withdrawal plans and concerns that the military were storing nuclear weapons in the base area.
In December 27, 1991, President Corazon Aquino issued formal notice for the US military to leave Subic by end of 1992.
The People of Olongapo City fighting for the creation of ARGO (Autonomous Region of Greater Olongapo) that would be come The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
Over the course of 1992, vast quantities of supplies, equipment and transportable facilities were moved out of Subic Bay to other US Navy installations across the globe, including Japan and Singapore and Guam. The base was formally closed on the November 24, 1992 as the last of the US military departed Subic Bay on the helicopter carrier USS Belleau Wood.
This event marked not only the end of the U.S. era in Subic Bay but also the first time in over 400 years that foreign military forces were absent in the Philippines.
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