Tanker carrying US Navy fuel for PH storage cancels entry to Subic

Tanker carrying US Navy fuel for PH storage cancels entry to Subic

PH-BOUND The tanker Yosemite Trader departs Pearl Harbor,Hawaii, in a photo taken on Dec. 20, 2023, and released by the US Department of Defense.

PH-BOUND The tanker Yosemite Trader departs Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in a photo taken on Dec. 20, 2023, and released by the US Department of Defense. Photo credits US Department of Defense (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Linzmeier)

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — A commercial tanker that was supposed to transfer 39 million gallons of fuel from a United States military facility to a commercial storage here has canceled its application for entry, an official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said on Thursday.

Armie Llamas, officer in charge of the SBMA’s office of the deputy administrator for corporate communications, said the tanker Yosemite Trader had canceled its request for a port call, based on information coming from the agency’s seaport department.


READ: Imee Marcos hits DND, AFP silence on massive US fuel delivery to Subic

Llamas did not say the reason for the cancellation, but the disclosure came a day after Sen. Imee Marcos issued a statement questioning the apparent lack of transparency about the shipment, particularly on the part of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, since it involves dealings with the US military.


Marcos, the elder sister of the President and chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, called out the DND and AFP for their “inexplicable silence” on the matter, asking whether they were using the Mutual Defense Treaty as “a license” to keep it under wraps.

Subic Bay, she added, is also not among the bases that the US military can use to preposition forces or equipment under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).

Llamas said the SBMA earlier received a communication from the US Navy on Tuesday for the planned fuel transfer in Subic, a former US naval base. She did not elaborate.

‘Proper channels’

Also on Thursday, the US Embassy in Manila confirmed that the commercial tanker was already in the vicinity of Subic Bay to transfer its cargo of fuel that came from the US military facility at Red Hill, Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii.

The Yosemite Trader was carrying “safe, clean fuel” and arrangements for the cargo’s transfer and storage in Subic were done through “proper channels,” according to a statement issued by the embassy’s spokesperson, Kanishka Gangopadhyay.

In a message to the Inquirer, Gangopadhyay also said the fuel “has not been sold or donated to the Philippine government” but that he “can’t speak [on] the future use of this fuel.”


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

The embassy also explained that it was just “one of multiple shipments’’ of fuel from Pearl Harbor to other locations in the Indo-Pacific region.

AFP: ‘Nothing to explain’

Addressing the questions raised by Marcos, the DND said the fuel shipment was “part of regular commercial transactions between the US Government and Philippine companies.”

The AFP, on the other hand, maintained it had “nothing to explain on the fuel shipment.”

“The process that was followed by the US government, these are all administrative in nature and did not involve the participation of the armed forces,” AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar told reporters.

Jet fuel leak

In March 2022, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III ordered the defueling and closure of the Red Hill storage facility following a jet fuel leak that affected thousands of residents near the air base.

At the time, Austin said the millions of gallons of fuel will be redistributed across the Indo-Pacific and “will better position the United States to meet future challenges in the region.”

The closure “will better support our operations in the Pacific theater, while caring for the health and safety of the people of Hawaii and our military families,” he said.


Before the cancellation was disclosed by the SBMA, the fuel shipments from the Red Hill storage facility were already drawing protests from local and international civil society groups.

The US-based advocacy group Hawai’i Justice and Peace said the US Navy had “repeatedly lied to the people of Hawaii, including military families, about the safety of the drinking water” sourced from a major aquifer located only a hundred feet away from Red Hill.

“The military did not admit to the fuel leak until people who lived nearby reported smelling fuel in their water,” the group said. “This endangered the lives of 93,000 people, and the impact continues to be felt to this day. Now, millions of [taxpayer] money are spent on decommissioning the Red Hill military storage facility.”

Among Filipino groups, Stop the War Coalition Philippines said it would demand answers from the government should it allow the fuel transfer.

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“Aside from health and environmental repercussions, the security risk is posed by who will ultimately use it, what they will use it for, and who will be responsible for securing it,” the coalition said on Thursday. “We are talking about massive amounts of dangerous, combustible substances. We demand answers, accountability and transparency in this matter that will impact the public.” —With reports from Jacob Lazaro and Frances Mangosing

TAGS: Subic, US Navy

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