Five U.S. Navy ships are being held in the Philippines — following the alleged murder of a Philippine national in Subic Bay —on orders from U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear.
“All ships even remotely related to this incident are being retained in port,” Marine Corps Forces Pacific spokesman Col. Brad Bartelt told U.S. government funded Stars and Stripes newspaper on Tuesday.
A Marine with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., is a suspect in the Saturday death of Jeffrey Laude, 26, a transgender also known as Jennifer.
The two regular Navy ships are the amphibious warships USS Peleliu (LHA-5) and USS Germantown (LSD-42) as well as two Military Sealift Command (MSC) cargo ships, USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2) and USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) as well as the MSC leased high-speed ferry, WestPac Express.
The Marine is being held in U.S. custody on Peleliu, according to a Tuesday report in the Reuters news service.
It’s unclear when the ships will be released.
“We do not discuss specifics of ship movements due to operational security concerns,” Bartelt told Stripes.
The death of Laude has prompted protests outside of the U.S. Embassy and has raised questions in the local press of ongoing U.S. military involvement in the island nation.
In April — set against the backdrop of Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and tensions over territorial claims — the Philippines signed a defense cooperation agreement allowing U.S. access to military infrastructure inside the country.
The U.S. turned over several long-standing bases to the Philippines in 1991.