May 16, 2012
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today assailed the entry of a United States nuclear-powered attack submarine in the former Subic Nava Base in Zambales. The USS North Carolina (SSN 777), a Virginia class attack submarine considered one of the “stealthiest, most technologically advanced” in the world.
“It’s as if US military bases are back in Subic. Virtual basing and hosting of US warships are being justified by the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement. Philippine ports like Subic are again providing logistics support for US ships. We might see more of these port calls now that the US is rebalancing towards Asia,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The Philippines is de facto hosting US warships presumably armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The entry of the nuclear submarine may be in contravention of the Philippine constitutional ban on nuclear weapons. The problem is that under the VFA, the US neither confirms nor denies that its ships carry nuclear weapons. However, the presumption is that they do, especially the more advanced ships,” Reyes said.
Article II, Section 8 of the Philippine Constitution states that “the Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”
Negative impact on dispute with China
Bayan also noted that the entry of the high-tech US submarine may have negative repercussions in the Philippine’s dispute with China, saying perceived US involvement may further escalate tensions.
“The port calls made by US warships is part of a greater strategy to project US military power in the region. It is directed at all
countries in the region, but most especially China, in order to keep China subservient to US dictates,” Reyes said.
Statements from the US military support the view that the port call is being used for US power projection. According to a US official, the USS North Carolina “brings to the region the capability to conduct the full spectrum of potential submarine missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and mine warfare,”
Recently, Washington and Manila held a high profile meeting that reaffirmed US defense interests in the Philippines. These include more frequent war games, port calls of US warships and the retention of the 600 US Special Forces stationed in Mindanao for the last decade.
Rest and recreation
Bayan also expressed concerns that the Philippines continues to play host for rest and recreation activities of US troops saying this creates a host of social and legal issues.
“Aside from the historical fact that so-called rest and recreation activities for US troops breed prostitution, there is also the unresolved provision in the VFA which places erring US troops under the custody of the US government, even if convicted by a lower court,” Reyes said.
“In the event that another Filipina is raped, like what happened in Subic not so long ago, the Philippine government will again be at a serious disadvantage. Our sovereignty will again be compromised,” he added.
Aquino has promised to review the provisions of the VFA regarding custody for US troops facing criminal raps. No results have come out from this nearly two years since Aquino came to power. ###