Militants on Wednesday questioned the entry of the USS North Carolina (SSN-777), a US nuclear-powered submarine, in the former Subic Naval Base in Zambales province, saying it may escalate the Philippines' territorial row with China.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan also said the visit of the submarine, considered one of the world's stealthiest and advanced, is like the return of the US military bases.

"The port calls made by US warships is part of a greater strategy to project US military power in the region. It is directed at all countries in the region, but most especially China, in order to keep China subservient to US dictates,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

He also said the visit may create a "host of social and legal issues," including possible prostitution and even rape of Filipinas by visiting troops.

The visit of the submarine came amid a territorial row between the Philippines and China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which started when Philippine military forces spotted Chinese fishermen gathering marine species from the area, but were blocked by Chinese vessels before they could make arrests.

Bayan said statements from the US military support the view that the port call is being used for US power projection.

It quoted a US official as saying the USS North Carolina “brings to the region the capability to conduct the full spectrum of potential submarine missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and mine warfare.”

It also noted Washington and Manila recently held a high-profile meeting that reaffirmed US defense interests in the Philippines.

"These include more frequent war games, port calls of US warships and the retention of the 600 US Special Forces stationed in Mindanao for the last decade," it said.

Worse, Reyes said it is as if US military bases are back in Subic. In 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the continued stay of the US bases in Clark (Pampanga) and Subic.

"Virtual basing and hosting of US warships are being justified by the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement. Philippine ports like Subic are again providing logistics support for US ships. We might see more of these port calls now that the US is rebalancing towards Asia," Reyes said.

He added the Philippines is virtually hosting US warships "presumably" armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Reyes also said the entry of the nuclear submarine may even be in contravention of the Philippine Constitution's on nuclear weapons.

But he lamented that under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the US neither confirms nor denies that its ships carry nuclear weapons. 

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