01 June 2015

US lifts shore leave ban for sailors in PH

The United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) has eased liberty restrictions on American troops in the Philippines.

With the lifting of the liberty ban effective May 29, sailors of USS Shiloh now in Subic Bay are allowed to go on pass or shore leave to briefly experience Filipino culture.

USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser with approximately 360-person crew of which 31 are Filipino-American, dropped anchor in Subic Bay Friday for a port visit as part of an ongoing patrol in the region.

“The routinely scheduled port visit will permit the ship to replenish supplies, strengthen people-to-people ties through community outreach,” said a statement from the US embassy.

It added that the port visit will afford Shiloh’s crew “the opportunity to briefly experience Filipino culture, which is reflective of strong historic, community, and military connections.”

A USPACOM message dated May 27 announced the plan to reopen liberty in the Philippines commencing May 29.

It added that US service members will adhere to the USPACOM liberty/pass policy which states that a curfew of 2400-500 (12mn-5:00 a.m.) be strictly enforced in all areas of the Philippines.

All U.S. military personnel are required to observe the buddy system, wherein one has to be accompanied by another service member, DoD civilian, contractor, spouse or adult family member when on liberty pass.

“All service members who are on temporary duty or on a port call to the Philippines shall strictly comply with liberty zones posted on the Foreign Clearance Guide”

Liberty policy has been tight in the Philippines since the killing of Filipino transgender, Jeffrey Laude alias “Jennifer” allegedly at the hands of a US serviceman in October last year.

In April when more than 6,000 U.S. forces arrived in the country for the annual Balikatan exercise, PACOM spokesman Maj. David Eastburn said in an email to the Manila Bulletin that “liberty is not authorized in the Philippines.”

Olongapo Mayor Rolen C. Paulino said the “no liberty policy” resulted to lost income opportunities, not only for the city, but the country as a whole. (Elena L. Aben, Manila Bulletin)