Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nothing 'fishy' with aircraft carrier's visit, US admiral says

The Daily Tribune, Wednesday, August 12, 2009, page 3

By: Mario Mallari

United States Task Force 70
Rear Admiral Kevin Donegan
yesterday said there was nothing
unusual in the aircraft carrier USS
George Washington's docking in
Manila as the stop is nothing but
a goodwill visit aimed at enhancing
the cooperation between the US
and Philippine navies.
Donegan gave this assurance
during his courtesy call on
Philippine Navy Flag-Officer-in-
Command Vice Admiral Ferdinand
Golez, where he spoke to
reporters about the intention of
the US vessel's visit.
"No way is it connected to
the events you are discussing now
or the world stage. Our goodwill
visit here has been scheduled a
long time ago,' he said when he
asked by the media if the visit
had something to do with the
issue concerning disputed
territories in the South China Sea
on the recent political events in
the country.
Donegan noted that just in 2008,
there have been 134 visits
by US military vessels in the
country, but stressed it was the
"first time we had an aircraft
carrier here for some time.'
The USS George Washington
presently docked in Manila Bay
has some 6,000 US Navy personnel,
25 percent of whom has connection
or relatives in the Philippines, he
Some of them came to see
the Philippines for the first time,
the US Navy official said.
"The four-day visit is basically
centered on a goodwill visit. We
are here to do exchanges with
the Philippine Navy and work with
the Philippine. We have some
of their sailors who are coming
to board the ship and some of ours that are
working together, "Donegan said.
Last June, US Central
Intelligence Agency Director Leon
Panetta made a lightning visit to
the country amid then persistent
talks that President Arroyo was
planning to declare emergency rule
following a spate of bombings in
Metro Manila and Mindanao.
Also in June, a sonar array
being towed by destroyer USS John
S Mc Cain collided with a Chinese
submarine just outside the
Philippines' territorial waters,
drawing security concerns from
Philippine authorities.
Last March, US and Chinese
vessels reportedly had a standoff
in the disputed Spratly Islands in
the South China Sea, where China
reportedly deployed a battle ship.
Washington accused Beijing of
behaving in an aggressive manner
in the disputed territory, but China
maintained that it was the US
which had violated maritime laws.
The Spratlys are being claimed
in part or in whole by Chin, the
Philippine, Vietnam, Malaysia,
Brunei and Taiwan.
In 2002, Southeast Asian
Nationsand China signed in
Vientian, Laos a landmark non-
binding Code of Conduct in the
Spratlys to reduce the tension
among the claimant countries by
their agreeing to maintain a status
quo in the area and shelving the
ownership issue pertaining to the region.
The Code of Conduct also
prohibits any activity that might
cause the tense situation in the
area to escalate and encourages
activities that would help build
mutual trust, cooperation among the
claimant nations.
At the same time, Donegan said
the officers and crew of the USS
George Washington are prepared
to extend assistance to the
government in addressing the
destruction wrought by tropical
storm "Kiko," particularly in
Central Luzon areas.
"If you ask for assistance, we
are always around and can help
if we have the forces available.
Part of the reason that
we train together, our two Navies,
is so that we can effectively provide relief
when needed, " he said.
Typhoon "Kiko" had triggered
flashfloods in the province of
Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales
and landslides in Iloilo and Baguio City.
The death toll in incidents
related to the storm that lashed
the northern part of the country
even as it veered away and did
not make landfall in the country
last weekend, has reached 23,
while several others were
reported injured.

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