US Embassy says ship’s fuel deliveries to Subic Bay aboveboard

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THE UNITED States Embassy in Manila on Thursday said a US vessel’s shipment of fuel to a US military facility in Subic Bay was aboveboard, after a Philippine senator questioned the lack of transparency in the transaction.

In a statement, embassy spokesman Kanishka Gangopadhyay said the Yosemite Trader, a US-registered tanker, is in the Philippines to transfer clean fuel from a US military facility in Red Hill, Pearl Harbor to Subic Bay.

“This is one of multiple shipments of safe, clean fuel from the Red Hill facility to other locations in the Pacific,” he said.

“All arrangements for the transfer and storage of this fuel were made through the proper channels, using established logistics contracts with Philippine commercial entities.”

Senator Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos on Wednesday urged the US and Philippine Defense department to explain why it had not announced the shipment of about 39 million gallons of fuel to Subic Bay.

“This is not just an issue of foreign policy, but of Philippine sovereignty, even environmental safety,” she said in a statement.

Ms. Marcos said silence from both the Philippine and US governments on the fuel transfer raises suspicions on a prepositioning of military supplies in the Philippines amid Washington’s conflict with China over Taiwan.

The US-tanker loaded oil cargo at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 20 and entered Philippine territory on Tuesday, she said, citing data from international shipping trackers.

Taiwan has been independent from China since 1949, but Beijing still claims the island is part of its territory and views Taiwan as a “renegade province.”

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Ms. Marcos’ brother, gave the US access to four more military bases on top of five existing sites under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.

“Subic is not an EDCA site. Where in Philippine territory are the gallons of oil going to be kept?” Ms. Marcos said in Filipino.

Three of the four new EDCA sites are in northern Philippines — Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport, also in Cagayan; and Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela. Cagayan is about 1,000 kilometers away from self-ruled Taiwan.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have worsened amid Beijing’s continued attempts to bock Philippine resupply missions at Second Thomas Shoal.

Last year, a group of congressmen asked the government to stop “stockpiling” defense equipment under the 2014 military pact.

Party-list Rep. France L. Castro has said the presence of US military forces and their activities could fuel tensions in the region, citing reports of covert military planes in Philippine territory last year. — John Victor D. Ordoñez