Feb 042013


MANILA, Philippines – Another United States (US) warship is set to dock in Subic Tuesday as the US Navy is embroiled in a controversy over its minesweeper USS Guardian, which remains stuck on the southern atoll in the Tubbataha Reef.

In a statement Monday, the US embassy in Manila said that the USS Stockdale, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, was set to arrive in Subic Bay on Tuesday for a “routine port visit.”

As in previous visits by US ships, the embassy noted that the stop in Subic would permit the vessel to “replenish supplies as well as offer its crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation.”

“Visiting Subic Bay provides us with a great opportunity to continue the long-term relationship between the Philippines and the United States and this is very important to us,” Lex Walker, commanding officer of USS Stockdale, was quoted as saying in the statement.

The ship is the second vessel from the US to make a stop in Subic after the USS Guardian ran aground on the atoll last Jan. 17. The Guardian ran aground on the atoll while in transit to Indonesia after a port visit to Subic, a former US naval base.

Authorities said that one of the US Navy’s plans was to dismantle the minesweeper and remove it in sections from the marine sanctuary, but a final plan had yet to be approved.

The US had said that it would provide appropriate compensation for the damages and would conduct activities aimed at the restoration and conservation of the world heritage site.

President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, had earlier noted that authorities had been tasked to investigate the grounding incident and that the country would hold the United States Navy accountable under Philippine laws for the damage caused by the incident.

Last Friday, the USS Cheyenne, a nuclear attack submarine belonging to the US Pacific Fleet, also arrived in Subic for a routine port visit.

In its statement, the embassy said that 15 Filipino-Americans sail aboard the USS Stockdale, among them sailors with family ties to cities like Baguio, Marikina, Olongapo, Quezon and Santa Monica.

It said that the visit was the ship’s first to the Philippines, and that it was part of its nine-month deployment to the Western Pacific that began in January 2013.

The Stockdale, commissioned in April 2009, is homeported in San Diego, California, the embassy said.

“The ship is named for Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, who was the highest ranking US naval officer to be held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam,” it added.