GMAnews, Monday,July 27, 2011
Three United States Navy ships are expected to take part in this year's Philippine-US "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training" (CARAT) bilateral exercises in Palawan.
A report by radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate Monday said the three ships will be the counterparts of Philippine vessels taking part in the exercise, which starts Tuesday.The same radio report by radio dzBB's James Viernes said the ships have arrived in Palawan.But Lt. Noel Cadigal, spokesperson for the Naval Forces West, said the US vessels — guided missile destroyers USS Chung Hoon and USS Howard and USNS Safeguard, a diving and salvage ship — will be arriving Tuesday morning.Cadigal identified the two participating Philippine Navy ships as BRP Pangasinan and BRP Rizal, both patrol ships. In Viernes' report, Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban reiterated that the bilateral exercises have nothing to do with the ongoing territorial row with China over the Spratly Islands.Sabban maintained that the CARAT exercises had been planned long ago, and should not be taken as a provocation of sorts, the dzBB report said.The Philippines and China, which had engaged in a word war of sorts following some incidents in the disputed area earlier this year, are two of six claimants to the Spratlys. The other claimants include Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia.Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy said its Naval Forces West and the US Pacific Fleet are all set for the CARAT 2011."The activity is part of the RP-US Defense Treaty of 1951 and is being executed every year," the Navy said in a news release posted on its website.It said the main purpose of the activity is to strengthen the ties and cooperation between the two Navies by the exchange of knowledge and skills in the field of navigation and naval operations, particularly maritime defense, port security, resource protection and disaster response.