A US aircraft carrier arrived in Manila on Thursday amid a controversy involving the recent killing of a transgender in Olongapo City, Zambales, allegedly by a US Marine.
In a statement, the US Embassy in Manila on Thursday said the arrival of the USS George Washington arrival for a routine port call “highlights the historic and military connections between the Philippines and the United States.”
The Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar joined the George Washington Carrier Strike Group off the coast of the Philippines from October 22 to 23 “to conduct maneuvering, communications and gunnery exercises to further enhance their ability to work together and demonstrate their commitment to the US-Philippines alliance.”
The aircraft carrier’s arrival came at a tension-filled time in US-Philippine relations as nationalist sentiments rose after the October 11 death of Jeffery “Jennifer” Laude, who was last seen in the company of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.
The US Marine is being detained in Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine military’s national headquarters in Quezon City, pending investigation of the alleged crime. Pemberton, however, remains under the custody of American military authorities.
Pemberton was in the Philippines to join 3,500 other US servicemen in the Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) born from the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which aims to boost capabilities of the Philippine armed forces through joint training and exercises.
According to the embassy, the USS George Washington was one of the first US ships to respond to the Philippines’ request for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after Typhoon Yolanda struck the country in November last year.
Together with other US vessels, it provided more than 335,000 liters of water and 36,360 kilos of food and supplies in support of relief efforts.
Commissioned July 4, 1992, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is the fourth ship to bear the name and is deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations, operating from Yokosuka, Japan.
It is commanded by Capt. Greg Fenton, with its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, commanded by Capt. William Koyama, carries 5,500 sailors, of whom 320 are Filipino-American.