Saturday, August 8, 2015

US warship docks in northern Luzon

From the Gulf News (Aug 9): US warship docks in northern Luzon

Escorts US Navy’s floating hospital engaged in cleft palate operation in Subic Bay

A warship of the United States’ Navy, USNS Millinocket, docked in northern Luzon while the US Navy’s floating hospital-ship, USNS Mercy, extended free operation to 100 children with cleft lip and palate on Subic Bay, central Luzon, sources said.

“It was the first time that USNS Millinocket, known for its rapid transport of troops and military equipment, and global fleet station operation support, sailed side by side with USNS Mercy, a 272-metre long floating hospital with 1,000 beds; four X-ray rooms, CAT scan unit; an angiography-dental-and physical therapy suite; optometry and lens lab; a blood bank; and two oxygen producing plants, said an observer who requested anonymity.

Operations on 100 patients with cleft lip and palate deformities at the USNS Mercy began in Saturday and will continue until Sunday at the Subic Bay, off Subic Freeport, the site of the former US Naval Base in Olongapo, Zambales until 1991.

Personnel of USNS Millinocket will also donate medical supplies upon docking at the surfing site in the South China Sea off San Juan, La Union; and off Baguio City, before sailing to Vietnam on Monday, said Philippine Navy Capt. Albert Mogol.

It is not known if USNS Mercy would leave Subic Bay on Monday, after its medical mission there. In a non-combatant mission, USNS Millinocket sailed from Solomon Islands, off east of Papua New Guinea, and docked off Poro Point, La Union which faces the South China Sea on Thursday, said Mogol. USNS Mercy sailed from Fiji and Papua New Guinea before holding medical missions in different parts of the Philippines, including southern Philippines, central Philippines; Manila; and Subic.

“We did not see any Chinese vessels (when we sailed from the Solomon Islands to La Union, northern Luzon),” US Task Force Forager Commander James Meyer said.

Political analysts said the presence of USNS Millinocket in the South China Sea, after escorting USNC Mercy, was meant to monitor the veracity of China’s statement during the recent meeting of Southeast and Asian foreign ministers in Kuala Lumpur, that its island-enhancement projects on seven reefs and shoals in the South China Sea has stopped.

But China also hinted that development projects to militarise the enhanced reefs and shoals would continue, the same analysts added.

The USNS Millinocket and USNS Mercy visited the Philippines for a 10-day joint Asia-Pacific humanitarian mission of US’ Pacific Partnership program, explained organisers.

US Navy’s Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multi-nation and multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia Pacific region, explained Capt. Christopher Engdahl USNS, Mission Commander of the Pacific Partnership 2015.

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