US to keep up sea patrols east of PH, says naval exec
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The United States will maintain its maritime presence in the Western Pacific, as the Philippines awaits the ruling of a UN tribunal on its maritime row with China, a senior US Navy official said here.
Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 73 of the US Navy, said nothing would change in the longstanding ties between the United States and the Philippines as both countries continued to engage in multilateral maritime exercises.
“[The United States] has a persistent and continuous presence in the Western Pacific… and that presence never wavered and it has only been persistent and sustained, and I expect it to be just that in the future,” Williams told reporters here after the closing ceremony of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) Philippines 2016 on Friday.
Carat Philippines is part of a broader series of exercises the US Navy conducts with nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia.
“All of these engagements reflect our belief that regional challenges increased and require cooperative solutions and cooperative Navies to have similar goals,” Williams said.
The Philippines believes its arbitration case in The Hague will go its way.
The country contested China’s claim over portions of the South China Sea that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China steadfastly refused to take part in the proceedings.
The South China Sea is located west of the Philippines, which calls its portion of the waters the West Philippine Sea.
Williams said the annual naval drills address shared maritime security priorities, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability among participating forces.
On June 4, the two Navies were joined by the Malaysian Navy in a multilateral training in the Sulu Sea where commercial ships had been hijacked recently by suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
Williams said the exercise tested the three Navies’ abilities to coordinate maritime security operations in a geographically separated environment at sea.
“We’ve been doing this Carat exercise with the Philippines for 22 years now. The purpose of this training is to make us better sailors and better mariners,” he said.
In a statement, Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, Philippine Fleet commander, said: “Carat strengthens the strong and enduring relationship between the US and Philippine Navies.”
The exercise was undertaken off Subic Bay and Palawan on June 6-10 and involved US military personnel in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
This year’s exercise featured the guided missile destroyer USS Stethem, the landing dock ship USS Ashland, and the diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor.
Taking part in the training were the Philippines’ assets that included the minesweeper frigate BRP Rizal, the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a landing craft heavy vessel and an AW109 helicopter.
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