MANILA, Philippines — The country’s first warship will join the naval exercises of the Philippines and the United States off Panatag Shoal when it kicks off on Thursday.
In a statement, the Philippine Navy said it will utilize the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), a Navy aircraft (Islander), the Special Boat Team, the diving team of the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG), and the construction team from the Naval Engineers and Philippine Marine Corps Company to test their readiness and capability.
The Philippine Coast Guard, meanwhile, will be sending BRP Edsa (SARV-002), a helicopter, a diving team, and a visit, board, search and seizure team.
The US Navy, for its part, will send USS Fitzgerald, USNS Safeguard, USNS Salvor, Marine Corps and other specialized personnel.
Earlier, the Navy clarified that the war games will be held about 60 nautical miles east of Panatag and should not be seen by China as an act of “intimidation.”
Panatag Shoal, an area contested by the Philippines and China, is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales, well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. It was the site of a maritime standoff between the two countries last year.
Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregroy Fabic said the exchanges, which will be held until July 2 in different areas in Northern Luzon, will include communications, naval surface operations, counterterrorism and maritime security operations, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.
The US Pacific Fleet conducts Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) with its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and the Philippines.