Philippines: Destroyer due in Subic amid protests vs rising US presence

[The renewed expansion of US military in Asia has brought renewed opposition to life.  The US moves are driven by its reassertion of hegemonic relations, its enforcement of neo-liberal and neo-colonial relations, and its containment of China and others as rapidly emerging imperialist powers.  The US military command describes the Filipinos as well-represented within the US military, and that Filipino-Americans within the US military play a special role in “community/public relations” efforts in the Philippines, (which have historically ranged from openly promoting imperialism to playing a direct or supportive role in counter-insurgency campaigns.) — Frontlines ed.]
[Photo:  Militant groups wage another protest outside the US Embassy in Manila on Monday, burning the US flag, denouncing the presence of US troops and mounting a call to save Tubbataha Reef, the marine sanctuary damaged by a US minesweeper earlier this month. PAULO VECINA, INTERAKSYON.COM]

As militant groups continue to protest what they perceive to be a disguised stepping up of US military presence in the country, yet another vessel, the destroyer USS Stockdale, is set to make a “routine visit” to Subic Bay in Zambales.

The United States Embassy said the USS Stockdale (DDG-106) due Tuesday is scheduled to replenish supplies and provide its crew opportunities for rest and relaxation.

The Embassy said the visit is Stockdale’s first to the Philippines. “The visit is part of the ship’s nine-month deployment to the Western Pacific that began in January 2013,” it said.

The Stockdale was commissioned on April 18, 2009, and is home-ported in San Diego, California. The ship is named after Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, the highest ranking US naval officer to be held as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam.

“Visiting Subic Bay provides us with a great opportunity to continue the long-term relationship between the Philippines and the United States and that is very important to us,” Commander Lex Walker, of USS Stockdale, said.

“We have quite a few Filipino-American sailors among our crew, and I hope that the citizens of the Philippines can look at our ship and see that their people and their culture are well represented and respected in the US Navy,” he added.

On board the warship are 15 Filipino-Americans, some with family ties to Baguio City, Manila, Marikina City, Orion, Olongapo City, Quezon City, and Santa Monica.

“Some, like Geno C. Uy (GSM2) and Ryan Angeles (AM2), were born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US in recent years. Others, including Joel Marsigian (AM2) and Dean Rivera-Villanueva (ADAN), were born in the United States but still have relatives in the Philippines. Many of the Stockdale’s Sailors plan to visit family while in port,” the US Embassy said.

According to Walker, the US servicemen are also scheduled to conduct community relations projects including visits to local orphanages.

Port calls raise alarm
The increasingly frequent visits of US warships to Philippine waters and facilities, especially Subic—once the US’s largest naval base outside the mainland until the bases treaty lapsed in 1991—has lately struck a raw nerve among some Filipino sectors.

The alarm raised by some groups, that the US may be using the aggressive Chinese moves in disputed waters in the South China Sea as an excuse for muscling in, was aggravated by the January 17, 2013 accident involving the minesweeper USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea.

The minesweeper, for still unclear reasons, strayed into the marine sanctuary, a protected area tagged in all maps as a no-navigation zone, damaging over 1,400 square meters of coral reefs. Tubbataha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the last rich marine biodiversity areas on the planet.

As strong currents keep sending the warship scraping deeper into the reefs, US authorities have said they will dismantle the Guardian, an operation seen to last till March.

US and Philippine authorities invoke the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which came into force seven years after the bases treaty expired, to justify the port visits of US warships and the long-term stay of US troops.

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