On May 18, 1992, NSGA Subic Bay, Zambales, Luzon, Republic of the Philippines closed.
On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo, just 20 miles from Subic Bay, exploded with a force eight times greater than the Mount St. Helens eruption. It was the largest eruption in the past five decades and led to the largest recorded evacuation of people due to a volcanic threat. Day turned to night as volcanic ash blotted out the sun. Volcanic earthquakes and heavy rain, lightning and thunder from a typhoon passing over northern Luzon made Black Saturday a 36-hour nightmare. By Sunday morning, when the volcano’s fury subsided, Subic Bay, once one of the most beautiful and well-maintained Navy bases in the Pacific, lay buried under a foot of the rain-soaked, sandy ash. Buildings everywhere collapsed under the weight of the coarse gray ash. Two girls, one a nine-year-old American and the other a Filipino citizen, died when trapped under a falling roof at George Dewey High School. In the city of Olongapo, more than 60 volcano-related deaths were reported, including eight who were crushed when part of Olongapo General Hospital collapsed.
By Sunday night, the threat of continued eruptions combined with the lack of water and electricity, led to the decision to evacuate all dependents. U.S. warships and cargo planes began the emergency evacuation of thousands of Navy and Air Force dependents. Seven Navy ships sailed Monday, June 17, with 6,200 dependents. A total of 17 ships, including the aircraft carriers, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and USS Midway (CV 41) evacuated all 20,000 dependents over the next few days. The evacuees were taken by ship to Mactan Air Base and then were airlifted by U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifters to Andersen Air Force Base at Guam.
After the dependents were evacuated, an intense clean-up was initiated. All hands, American service members and Filipino base employees, worked around the clock to restore essential services. Clark Air Base, much closer to Mount Pinatubo, was declared a total loss and plans for a complete closure were started. Within two weeks NAS Cubi Point was back in limited operation. Soon, most buildings had electricity and water restored. By mid-July service had been restored to most family housing units. The dependents began returning September 8, 1991 and by the end of the month almost all were back at Subic Bay from the United States.
On October 28, 1991, NSGA Clark AB was evacuated, relocated and merged with NSGD Subic Bay to form NSGA Subic Bay. Six months later on May 18, 1992, NSGA Subic Bay closed.
Many months before the expiration of the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 on September 16, 1991, intense negotiations between the governments of the U.S. and the Philippines began. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation between the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines. This would have extended the lease of the American bases in the Philippines. However, on September 13, 1991 the Philippine Senate rejected the ratification of this treaty, citing a number of reasons for the rejection. This was a devastating blow to President Corazon Aquino’s administration, who were strongly pro-treaty and even called for a referendum by the Filipino people. In December of 1991, the two governments were again in talks to extend the withdrawal of American forces for three years, but this broke down as the United States refused to spell out in detail their withdrawal plans or say if nuclear weapons were kept on base because nuclear weapons were forbidden on Philippine soil. Finally, on December 27, President Corazon Aquino, who fought to delay the pullout to cushion the country’s battered economy, issued a formal notice that, in accordance with the treaty, United States forces must be withdrawn from Naval Base Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point, by the end of 1992.
During 1992, tons of material including dry docks and equipment were shipped to various Naval Stations. Ship-repair and maintenance yards as well as supply depots were relocated to other Asian countries including Japan and Singapore. On October 1, 1992, the U.S. Navy withdrew from Subic Bay Naval Base. Subic Bay was the last of the U.S. military bases in the Philippines, which were handed over to the Philippine government. On November 24, 1992, the American Flag was lowered in Subic for the last time and the last 1,416 Sailors and Marines at Subic Bay Naval Base left by plane from NAS Cubi Point and onboard the USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3). This withdrawal marked the first time since the 16th Century that no foreign military forces were present in the Philippines. The U.S. presence in the Philippines ended.
The former U.S. Naval Base Subic was converted into a free-trade zone and a free port by the Philippine government.