MANILA, Philippines — The annual Philippines-US bilateral military exercises dubbed Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training or CARAT Philippines 2011, where some 800 American servicemen will join their Filipino counterparts, will kick off Tuesday at Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.
Three US Navy ships — guided missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS Howard (DDG 83) and the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) — will participate in CARAT Philippines 2011. The ships are the US Navy’s centerpieces for the exercise, which features 11 days of training exchanges between the two navies, both ashore and at sea.
The bilateral military exercise, which will take place starting Tuesday up to July 8, will be held at Puerto Princesa City and in the Sulu Sea.
CARAT is part of the two nations’ military cooperation under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and is held every year.
Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay, Philippine Navy spokesman, said the main purpose of the activity is to strengthen the ties and cooperation between the two navies through the exchange of knowledge and skills in the field of navigation and naval operations, particularly maritime defense, port security, resource protection and disaster response.
Highlights of CARAT 2011 are personnel exchange for the effective commutation of information between the Philippine Navy (PN) and the US Navy (USN); friendship games; and PN-hosted and USN-hosted reception dinners to further strengthen the relationship between the two sides.
Civil military operations are also scheduled with the aim of reaching out to the residents of Palawan. These include the Medical and Dental Civic Action at Barangay Tagabinet; Engineering Civic Action at Barangay Mangingisda Elementary School; and Community Relation Activity at Tagburos Elementary School and Gregorio Oquendo Memorial Elementary School. A Community Service and Public Affairs activity is also set in the form of free music lessons at Palawan State University Laboratory High School and Palawan National School. To cap off the activity, there will be a free band concert by the Philippine Marine Corps and the US 7th Fleet Band at the Puerto Princesa City Ampitheater and at the NCCC Mall.
Tonsay said members of the US Navy are also scheduled to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River, the city’s biggest and most popular tourist destination.
"This is an opportunity for the Naval Forces West, the city of Puerto Princesa and the province of Palawan to showcase its beauty and its natural resources," he added.
The Navy official further stated, “This exercise will certainly prove its worth as all aspects of naval operations are being integrated as the two navies further their interoperability.”
Capt. David Welch, Commander, Task Group 73.1 and the US commander for the exercise, meanwhile said, "The US and Philippine navies have a long history of working together, and exercises like CARAT provide a great venue for us to hone our skills and increase our interoperability."