MANILA, Philippines - The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Wednesday criticized the entry of a United States nuclear-powered attack submarine in the former Subic Naval Base in Zambales.
“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," Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said in a statement.
Reyes said the Philippines is now de facto hosting US warships presumably armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
He added that 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.
According to the website of US Pacific Command (US PACOM), the 350-feet long USS North Carolina is the fourth submarine in the Virginia class and is the US Navy's "newest class of submarine and the first ship designed for the post Cold-War environment."
"She is designed to operate with stealth, agility and endurance in the world's littoral regions, as well as the deep oceans. During this maiden deployment, her crew provided the value of the ship and their training by completing a wide variety of missions assigned by their operational commander," PACOM said.
"North Carolina is one of the stealthiest, most technologically advanced submarines in the world. She 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," it added.
Negative impact on sea dispute
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.
The submarine's arrival came two weeks after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with their US counterparts in Washington.
US Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton earlier stressed that although US is not taking side in the dispute, they are going to honor its obligations under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which states that “an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
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. With Agence France-Presse