US, Japan warships arrive for war games
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—This former American naval base has started hosting vessels from the United States and Japan, ahead of the joint military exercises between Filipino and US troops, government officials said.
Seven ships from the United States and three Japanese vessels have either arrived or expected to dock here during the weekend for this year’s Balikatan 2016 exercises. Japan is participating as an observer.
According to the US Pacific Command, US Marines participating in the annual war games have also started to arrive in the country early this week.
Balikatan is an annual bilateral training exercise between the Philippines and the United States. It is designed for various missions such as humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement and environmental protection, according to a statement issued earlier by the US Embassy in Manila.
This year’s Balikatan will take place from April 4 to 16, in various training sites in the country, including Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, Subic Bay, Palawan and Panay.
On Friday, replenishment oiler ship USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE-9) and dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) dropped anchor at the Alava pier here, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
Another replenishment oiler vessel, USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204), arrived here a day earlier.
Supply ship USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), dry cargo ship USNS Maj. Stephen W. Pless (T-AK-3005), oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO-193), and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DD6-62) are expected to arrive today.
Capt. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy spokesperson said the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) would be sending its Oyashio-class Japanese diesel-electric submarine (SS-511) to Subic Bay for a goodwill visit on April 3.
The Japanese submarine will be escorted by two destroyers, JS Setogiri (DD-156) and JS Ariake (DD-109). It will stay in Subic until April 6, Lincuna said. This would be the submarine’s first visit to the Philippines in 15 years, according to Japanese Navy.
An undetermined number of military vehicles, mostly Humvees and amphibious, have been temporarily stored at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).
SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said the vehicles would be used by Balikatan participants.
Throughout the Balikatan, Filipino and US forces will work together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines in order to meet annual training requirements, and enhance techniques, tactics, and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of our forces, the embassy’s statement said.