Monday, June 13, 2011

Joint naval exercise not linked to West Philippine Sea row - Navy

By Abigail Kwok, Monday, June 13, 2011

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines and the United States are set
to hold joint naval exercises on Sulu Sea, off the coast of Palawan,
later this month, but a Navy spokesman here said these were not at all related to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said Monday the Cooperation Afloat
Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises will be held from June 28 to
July 8 on Sulu Sea, specifically east of Puerto Princesa City. Joint US
and Philippine military forces will hold a series of activities such
as diving exercises, salvage exercises, sea training exercise and
community relations.

"The objective, as always, is interoperability, specifically on our
ability to operate with the US and vice versa and exchange of
doctrinal and tactical best practices. We will observe and adopt their
best practices and vice versa," Tonsay told reporters.

The official denied that the exercises were connected to the ongoing
tension over the Spratly Islands, where the Philippines recently filed
a diplomatic protest against China for its incursions on
Philippine-claimed territories.

"It's not related... and the exercises are being done annually, between
the second and third quarter of every year," Tonsay said.

Three US ships -- USS Chung Hoon, USS Howard, and USNS Safeguard --
are expected to participate in the exercises.

Tonsay stressed that the CARAT exercises have been held annually for over
10 years now, with the venue rotating in various parts of the country.

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