07 September 2012

Another US sub docks in Subic; US spy plane joins coastal drill

Amid concerns over the frequent visits of United States naval assets in the country, another US submarine will dock today in Subic Bay for supposed routine port and goodwill visit, while a US Navy surveillance plane yesterday joined local security forces in an exercise aimed at safeguarding coastal areas in the strife-torn Mindanao.

In an advisory, the US Embassy in Manila announced the arrival of USS Hawaii (SSN-776), a Virginia class submarine, on Subic Bay, Zambales, where another US Navy asset, USS Frank Cable, an LY Spear class submarine tender, is docked since its arrival last Monday.

The US Embassy said USS Hawaii is in the country for “a routine port call and goodwill visit that highlights strong historic, community and military connections between the US and the Republic of the Philippines.”

Philippine Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay said the USS Hawaii will be on Subic Bay until Sept. 12, primarily for “replenishment and rest and relaxation for the (US) troops.”

“It (USS Hawaii) has no engagement with the Philippine Navy,” he added.

Aside from the two submarines, a number of US naval assets had docked in Subic Bay during the past months, including the USS North Carolina, the USS Mercy and the USS Louisville.

A US guided missile destroyer, the USS Milius, also made a stop in Manila last month.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has scored the Aquino administration for the frequent visits of US military assets in the country, masquerading as “routine port calls and goodwill visits” but actually meant to impose the US military might in the Asia Pacific.

The communist group has accused Washington of using the South China Sea dispute to pressure China.

Relatedly, US navy surveillance plane PC-3 Orion flew over the Davao Gulf in the south from an airport in the central Philippines in a mock mission to help local authorities track a seaborne vessel, said Philippine Navy (PN) Capt. Robert Empedrad.

“The Orion was available, so we requested they take part and spot a vessel,” he told Agence France Presse.

“They (Orion crew) reported (the target vessel’s position) to us and after we determined the real position of contact, we instructed our ships to conduct an interception.”

PN and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) patrol vessels also took part in the exercise, while the US aircraft flew back to an airport in Cebu City after its mission, he added.

The exercise will help the US Navy to coordinate with the PN, PCG, maritime police and other agencies in securing Mindanao, Empedrad said.

He added it would boost security and help protect the island from terrorism, piracy, drug smuggling, gun-running and human trafficking. (Mario J. Mallari, The Daily Tribune, with AFP)