Philippine Prez tours US carrier Carl Vinson
The USS Carl Vinson had received US SEAL teams who carried bin Laden`s body.
Manila: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III led senior members of his Cabinet on a visit on Saturday to the USS Carl Vinson, from where Osama bin Laden`s body was buried at sea.
A statement from the US embassy said the Carl Vinson and three other ships in the carrier group are embarking on a four-day routine port call and goodwill visit to Manila starting Sunday.
Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said Aquino, US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr and other Philippine officials were flown early Saturday on a US military aircraft to the carrier.
It is still in international waters approaching the Philippines. It is coming from the North Arabian Sea, where it had received US SEAL teams who carried bin Laden`s body after killing the al Qaeda leader in a raid on his home in Pakistan.
Pentagon officials have said that on the carrier, bin Laden`s body was placed in a "weighted bag”, an officer made religious remarks and the remains were put on a flat board and tipped into the sea.
Among those who accompanied Aquino were Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Ricky Carandang, one of the president`s spokesmen.
In impromptu remarks on the ship, Aquino reaffirmed the "historic, defence and cultural ties" between the United States and the Philippines, one of Washington`s oldest and closest Asian allies, Carandang said.
US special forces have been training and arming Filipino soldiers battling al Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippines for about a decade now.
Carandang said that while on board, no discussions took place about the carrier`s participation in the US attack in Abbotabad, Pakistan, and bin Laden`s subsequent sea burial.
"We didn`t even talk about that," Carandang said. "We were all impressed by the aircraft carrier. You see it in the movies, but it`s different when you see it in real life — the planes taking off, the planes landing."
Aquino also met with many Filipino-American crew members of the nuclear-powered carrier, he said.
The embassy statement said the US service members in the carrier group will take part in sports events, seminars and community assistance projects with their Philippine counterparts.
It said the visit will contribute about USD 4.65 million to the local economy from port fees and crew expenditures.