Philippine Star, Thursday, July 7, 2011
MANILA, Philippines - The joint naval exercise of the Philippines and the United States in Palawan near disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea ending tomorrow was hailed a success.
Dubbed as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2011, the joint naval exercise is the yearly naval event between the Philippine and US navies in line with the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two allies.
“The event was a success because we have accomplished all plans and programs for the event,” said Maj. Niel Estrella, spokesman of the Western Command (Wescom) based in Puerto Princesa City.
Estrella said the troops at Wescom are hoping that next year’s CARAT would again be held in Palawan since the island province offers the best training ground for naval exercises.
He said that aside from Filipino sailors and Marines, at least 800 US servicemen who took part in this CARAT have also gained additional experience on the intricacies of a joint naval operation.
Two Philippine Navy ships, the BRP Rizal and BRP Pangasinan, two US Navy guided-missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon, USS Howard and US Navy’s dive and salvage ship USN Safeguard took part in this year’s 11-day Naval drill within the Sulu Sea area.
The joint naval war games started last June 28 at a time when tension over territorial disputes in the nearby West Philippine Sea have been mounting due to the aggressive behavior of China to assert its claim over the entire South China Sea, part of which is also being claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan.
Aside from the routine civil-military operations, Filipino and US troops also took part in various naval drills on the high seas, which include maritime security and interdiction operations to further enhance interoperability among the two naval forces as well as target acquisition or live fire exercises.
“We are hoping that CARAT would again be held here next year as this will open more opportunities for training our own Navy personnel,” Estrella said.
Estrella brushed aside reports that condoms were distributed to US servicemen before disembarking from their warships that docked at the Puerto Princesa City port.
He said that most health and wellness products, including condoms, are always available in all US ships for crewmembers but not for distribution by their officers as reported.
“Of all the health and wellness products located along strategic areas of the ship’s hallway, mediamen on a guided tour on the US warships only reported the condoms and did not mention other health and wellness products like sun blocks that are always available to all crewmembers on board,” Estrella said.
He denied that condoms were distributed to the US soldiers.
“Optional ito to all US servicemen as well as other militaries around the globe,” Estrella said.