PH, US to hold naval exercises near Scarborough
MANILA, Philippines—Continuing bilateral relations, the Philippines and the United States will hold naval exercises in Subic Bay, with some activities near Scarborough come June 26, a Philippine Navy officer said.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Rommel Rodriguez, Philippine Fleet Public Affairs Officer, said the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) would last until July 1 with the Philippine Navy and the United States Navy conducting maritime exercises near the disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
According to Rodriguez, the 2014 version of Carat would be its 20th and has the aim to strengthen the ties of the Philippine Navy, Philippine Marine Corps, United States Navy, and the United States Marine Corps and to promote “relationship and goodwill.”
Activities will involve classroom style discussions on safety, maritime defense awareness flight operations, at-sea events and will be culminated in an amphibious operation facing the South China Sea in San Antonio town of Zambales province, an area close to Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) that is claimed by China but is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
A joint concert between the US 7th Fleet Band the Philippine Fleet Band will also be held.
There will also be a gunnery exercise in the vicinity of Luzon Sea on June 29.
“This will be around 39 nautical miles southwest of Sampaloc Point, near Subic. It’s the lower tip of Zambales. Barko natin and barko ng US, we’ll involve lahat ng barko natin, lahat sila,” Rodriguez said.
“[There will be] maritime interdiction operations, visit board search and seizure exercise at sea, all will be within the area, riverine, diving exercise, mga communication exercise…same area,” he added.
Purely maritime training
The war games will be held amid increasing tensions with China, but Rodriguez said the event is a “purely maritime training activity” and is no way related to the territorial row.
“There is nothing to be worried about. This has nothing to do with Philippines-China dispute or the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“Carat is conducted every year and it has no connection with the current dispute, issue on territorial claims…Just to emphasize that both our navies have conducted Carat activities in different areas in the Philippines,” Rodriguez said.
Not a sign of threat
Rodriguez said that China need not fret the exercises as it is focused solely on the two countries’ cooperability and not on the feud with the mighty Asian nation.
“There is nothing to worry about,” Rodriguez said. “This has nothing to do with the Philippines and China dispute or the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.”
He added that the venues of the previous Carat exercises were not in the vicinity of the disputed area with Cebu playing hosts in 2009, Subic for 2010, 2013, and 2014, Palawan for 2011 and Mindanao for 2012.
Show of force
According to Rodriguez, around 1,000 troops from the two country’s navies would participate in the maritime exercises.
He added the United States Navy would use one of its destroyers, USS Halsey, a dock landing ship, USS Ashland, and a rescue ship, USS Safeguard.
There will also be an underwater construction team, Naval seabees, choppers, SH60B seahawk, mobile diving salvage unit, explosive ordnance disposal unit, two landing craft air cushion, company size amphibious assault vehicles.
For their counterparts, the Philippine Navy would use the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, which would be the venue of the kickoff, and BRP Emilio Jacinto.
It will also use Augusta helicopters, one Islander, a Naval Special Operations Group EOD team, three diving teams, two special boat teams, and two marine companies, communications team, band and logistics team and Seabees.
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