MANILA, Philippines--Anything but the Osama bin Laden sea burial.
Capt. Bruce Lindsey, skipper of the visiting US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, evaded all Osama bin Laden-related questions raised by Filipino journalists who joined Sunday?s tour of the nuclear-powered warship upon the invitation of the US Embassy in Manila.
Wossenyelesh Mazengia, the embassy?s deputy spokesperson, earlier told reporters that ?no one on the Vinson is authorized to discuss any operational details that involve Osama bin Laden.?
When interviewed, some Filipino-American crew members of the aircraft carrier also declined comment on the issue. ?It?s not permitted ? We?re not supposed to discuss it even with our family members,? said one of them.
About 15 percent of the 6,000 crew of the Carl Vinson Carrier Group are Filipino-Americans.
The 97,000-ton Carl Vinson, which is in Manila for a four-day goodwill visit, is the same warship that buried Bin Laden somewhere in the north Arabian Sea after he was killed during a raid by US Navy Seals on his Pakistan hideout earlier this month.
On May 2, the body of the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States was placed in a ?weighted bag,? put on a flat board and tipped into the sea, according to an Associated Press report.
Senior US officials had claimed his body was disposed of in accordance with Islamic traditions, which involve ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours.
Bin Laden was buried at sea because no country would accept his remains, the officials also said.
Asked by a reporter about the ship?s ?part in history,? Lindsey declined comment.
?Nice try though ? (But) every day, if you?re a sailor in the US Navy, you?re a part of history. Every day that you come aboard a ship and have a chance to serve with sailors is an opportunity to participate in history,? he said.
Lindsey said ?the morale (of the 6,000 crew of the Carl Vinson carrier group) has been phenomenal.?
He said the sailors were absolutely committed to their mission. ?But there?s nothing like the promise of a port visit in Manila to give that morale going through the roof. I have some very, very excited sailors here,? he said.
Lindsey noted that ?whether it?s the first time or the 10th time, a port visit to the Philippines is always memorable. There are many opportunities to make a positive impact wherever we go, and the Philippines is a great place to carry on that legacy of the Navy just that.?
Lindsey confirmed reports that during President Aquino?s visit to the Carl Vinson on Saturday, no discussions took place about the carrier?s participation in the US attack in Abbotabad, Pakistan, and Bin Laden?s subsequent sea burial.
The captain of the aircraft carrier said they ?discussed a number of things, (including) our partnership and our commitment to regional security.?
?(Mr. Aquino) discussed a lot about what his administration has done with our Filipino-American sailors. He gave a very interesting discussion and a summary of what his administration has done to the Philippines,? he added.
The President was given a special tour of the Carl Vinson while the vessel was out at sea.
Rear Adm. Samuel Perez, head of the Carl Vinson-led Carrier Strike Group, said ?every sailor has put in a tremendous effort on this deployment.?
?We are very fortunate to visit the Philippines, which has a rich history and a very special relationship with the US Navy,? Perez added.
In a statement, the carrier group said that during its ?first port visit after 52 consecutive days at sea, several events have been planned to maximize the opportunity to interact with Filipino nationals.?
The Carl Vinson, which is escorted by three other US warships, is also ?fielding a soccer team to play a friendly game with Philippine Navy sailors, and holding community service projects that would allow US sailors to volunteer their time and skills to benefit the community.?
The US Embassy said US Navy sailors would help in the construction of a habitat in Caloocan City and visit a children?s orphanage in Makati City.
?We are truly fortunate to have been chosen by the USS Carl Vinson and the USAID to be visited and made part of their program,? Caloocan Mayor Recom Echiverri said in a statement e-mailed on Sunday.
The US Embassy said the carrier group?s visit would contribute about $4.65 million to the local economy from port fees and crew spending. With a report from Niña Calleja and AP