Monday, June 13, 2011

US ships off to Palawan for PHL-US naval exercises

GMA news, Monday, June 13, 2011

Two United States Navy destroyers and a salvage ship are sailing to the Philippines this month for naval training exercises with Filipino counterparts off Palawan province, a Philippine Navy official said Monday.

The naval exercises come at a time of renewed tensions between the Philippines and China over the alleged intrusion of Chinese vessels into Philippine territorial waters near Palawan, but Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the situation is a mere coincidence.

“Hindi related," said Tonsay in an interview Monday. “Matagal na siyang ginaganap between [the] third and second quarters. So, talagang every year."

Dubbed as the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training or CARAT, the exercises will be held from June 28 to July 8 within the Sulu Sea, just east of Palawan.

The US ships involved are the USS Chung-Hoon and USS Howard — a class of destroyers — and the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard. As he is not privy to the information, Tonsay could not immediately say how many US servicemen will join CARAT.

From the Philippines, the official said four Navy ships will take part in the exercises. He also did not have the information on which ships and how many Filipino servicemen will take part in the naval exercises.

US and Philippine naval forces have been pursuing CARAT for over 10 years now. The US has the same arrangement with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Exchange of best practices

“The objective is interoperability, our ability to operate with the US and vice versa and exchange of doctrinal and tactical best practices. We adopt their best practices if we can, and vice versa," Tonsay said.

Tonsay announcement came on the heels of a similar report from Vietnam which has staged live fire exercises within its territorial waters in the South China Sea. Like the Philippines, Vietnam has recently accused China of violating its sovereignty.

Apart from military operations, Tonsay that CARAT shall encompass community relations, diving and salvage exercises, and other “at-sea" training exercises, as well as subject matter expert exchange.

“In at-sea or fleeting training exercises, all will be covered. All tactics involved at sea will be covered…" he added.

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