Friday, June 24, 2011

3 US vessels to arrive in Puerto Princesa for exercises

By VR/Sunnex
Sun Star Manila, Friday, June 24,2011

THREE vessels from the United States will arrive in Puerto Princesa City on Tuesday as part of their participation in naval exercises with their Philippine counterpart, the second such exercise since 2008.

The USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Howard (DDG 83), both guided missile destroyers, and the USNS Safeguard (T-ARS), a diving and salvage ship, are part of the US Navy's "centerpieces" for the 11-day exercise, US Navy Lieutenant Commodore Mike Morlet, information officer of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat), said in a statement.

The three vessels are staffed by 800 persons.

To be conducted until July 8, the exercise will take place at the Sulu Sea, which is located east of Palawan. The area lies on the opposite side of the disputed Spratly Islands, which is reportedly rich in oil and mineral deposits.

The upcoming training is the 17th in the series of the annual Carat exercises. Last year, the exercises were held at the former US naval base in Subic Bay and in Cebu the previous year.

Among the training exercises covered by the program include visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises, diver training, salvage operations, joint medical, dental, and civic action projects, and aircrew familiarization exchanges.

"Additionally, there will be symposia on operations planning, search and rescue practices, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, interagency cooperation and public affairs," Morley said.

Meanwhile, the exercise's at-sea phase will be focused on "developing maritime security capabilities in areas such as maritime interdiction, information sharing, combined operations at sea, patrol operations and gunnery exercises, plus anti-piracy and anti-smuggling exercises."

Other participants to the exercises include the US Navy Seabees, A US Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), US Navy Mobile Security Squadron, US Navy Riverine Forces, Medical Support personnel, and P-3C Orion and SH-60 Seahawk aircraft, he added.

For its part, the Philippines said four of its ships will be participating in the exercises, the Philippine Navy's spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay, said.

Besides the Philippines, the US also pursues similar CARAT exercises with the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

US and Vietnam also figure in Carat-like event known as Naval Exchange Activity.

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