MANILA : Mother Nature Votes

A month after Mt. Pinatubo blanketed Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base with tons of volcanic debris, U.S. and Philippine officials are to resume meeting Monday in hopes of finally deciding the fate of the two big American bases.

U.S. military officials are due to report today on the extent of damage, and the expected cost of repairs. Their assessment will help determine whether the Air Force must abandon Clark, which lies less than 10 miles from the still-erupting volcano.

Lease talks deadlocked in May, a year after they began, over issues of time and money. Philippine officials have privately agreed to let the Americans stay seven years, plus one for a phaseout, but U.S. diplomats say they may ask for more time because of Pinatubo.