Three American warships and four Philippine Navy vessels will take part in naval training exercises between the Philippines and the United States to be held June 28-July 8 in the Sulu Sea.
The Philippine Navy said holding this year’s Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) exercise in the waters east of Palawan province had been arranged before the renewed conflict with China over the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“It had been planned beforehand,” said Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay, the Navy spokesperson.
“It’s been going on for more than 10 years now … Last year it was held in the Zambales area, this year in the Palawan area, next year it will be in the Zamboanga area,” Tonsay added, explaining that the venue is rotated among the six naval forces around the country.
Tonsay said it was not the first time the annual exercise would be held in the Sulu Sea.
The last Carat exercise took place in October last year at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority area in Zambales province where the former American naval base used to be.
Five Philippine Navy ships with about 1,000 sailors and Marines then trained with more than 3,000 of their American counterparts brought in by six US Navy vessels and three aircraft that participated in the annual exercise.
Tonsay said this year’s Carat exercise involved sea training, salvage, diving, community relations work and experts exchange.
It will not include live-fire drills, he said.
The participating US warships are the destroyers USS Chung-Hoon and USS Howard, and a rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard.
Tonsay said the USS Chung-Hoon was in international waters west of the Philippines but had not yet entered Philippine territory.
Carat is conducted in accordance with the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty. It aims to ensure interoperability between the Philippine Navy and US Navy and a venue for the exchange of doctrinal and tactical best practices.