A US Navy ship figured in a mishap with two (2) fishing boats in Subic Bay on Monday night.
USS Stethem (DDG 63), according to a report of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Law Enforcement Department (LED), was on its way out of Subic Bay when it hit a 19-foot-long motorized fishing boat with a 5-foot long paddle boat in tow in waters off Kinabuksan, Subic, Zambales.
After being “towed and pushed” by SBMA tugboats Ilonga and Agila from the Rivera Pier, the USS Stethem set out for the West Philippines Sea with no “picket boat” as escort while still inside the bay.
“Picket boats is a must for ships entering and leaving the bay,” a senior official of the SBMA Seaport Dept., who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter, told Subic Bay News, “it is the responsibility of the shipping agent.”
He added that the USS Stethem’s shipping agent is Global Terminal & Development, Inc. (Global) which may face sanctions both from the SBMA and the US Navy.
USS Stethem sailors plucked from the sea and saved from possible drowning fishermen Orlito T. Cocjin, 44, Julie Mendez, 43, who were both aboard the motorized fishing boat, and Pampilo B. Bacsal, 33, who was on the paddle boat. All hail from Bgy. Barretto, Olongapo City.
Both boats were badly damaged and capsized as a result of the massive impact which the fishermen escaped by jumping into the sea in time.
Before proceeding on to its journey, the USS Stethem turned-over to SBMA authorities who proceed to the scene the fishermen who opted not to file complaints after American officials gave them assurance that the Navy will shoulder the cost of the damage incurred by the boats and medical expenses, if any, through the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
USS Stethem, with almost 300 officers and crew, docked in the Subic Freeport for PHIBLEX 2015, the PH-US Military Exercise which aims, among others, to improve their inter-operability.
Despite the teeming presence of Manila-based media, the incident escaped their attention as they were engrossed on the death of a male homosexual who was found dead and naked in a cheap hotel in Olongapo City, just outside the Freeport, allegedly assaulted by a US Marine who was made to believe he was a woman.
Police declared the case solved upon identification of the suspect with the cooperation of the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
The Marine, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, a native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA, is under detention in the custody of US authorities aboard the USS Peleliu, presently docked in the Subic Freeport, while charges are being readied against him.
Meanwhile, local businessmen and residents are wary that the US Navy may cancel visits to Subic due to the incident.
US Ships’ visits, as before when the Freeport was a US Naval Base until 1992, infuse millions of pesos to the local economy, making their presence eagerly anticipated and warmly welcomed. (Vic V. VIZCOCHO, Jr.)