Philippines to participate in Southeast Asian naval exercises

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MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Navy will participate with navy units from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States in an annual combined exercise dubbed as Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (Seacat).

In a statement, Navy spokesman Colonel Omar Tonsay said the annual exercises will be held Tuesday until September 2 in Malacca Strait, Sulu Sea and Subic Bay “to enhance interoperability and share best practices.”

“They will participate together with the US Navy in a scenario-driven fleet training exercise against transnational crimes and other maritime threats which focuses on real time information exchange, coordinated surveillance operations, tracking, and eventual conduct of Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) to the maritime Contact of Interest (COI) or the designated scenario target vessel,” he said.

In his training directive, Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the activity will involve “surface, air, and special operations units in the conduct of surveillance, tracking, and boarding of the COI from the different participating navies within their respective maritime territories.”

Four ships and one islander aircraft from the Philippine Navy will participate in this year’s exercise. As in the previous Seacat exercises, several ships from each participating country will join the training with one US Navy ship, USS Safeguard, designated as the COI for the participating Southeast Asian Navies.

In the Philippines, one Maritime Interdiction Operations  scenario with boarding opportunity will be conducted at Subic Bay and another one at the Sulu Sea. At the same time, Coast Watch stations in the different participating Naval Forces AORs will be utilized to exercise their capabilities in surveillance, tracking, communications, and operations, Tonsay said.

The Seacat is a yearly combined exercise conducted at vital sea lanes in Southeast Asia to ensure control of vital sea lanes from terrorists, poachers, and transnational lawless elements. Tonsay said the venues were determined in advance during coordinated planning sessions and were finalized following confirmation from all participating navies.

This exercise aims to promote regional coordination, information sharing and interoperability in a multilateral environment.  It is aimed to enhance regional coordination, information sharing, and combined inter-operability capability with participating  navies in the region, tests its personnel and naval assets operational readiness and ultimately, improve the maritime security capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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