PH-US in naval war games

Almost 1,000 Filipino and US sailors and servicemen will take part in the 2012 naval war games

A Filipino soldier observes a US Navy ship. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine and American naval forces kick off on Monday, July 2, their annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) joint training exercises in the Mindanao Sea to improve the capability of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard to respond to disasters and terrorism.

CARAT 2012 will run from July 2 to 10 and include in-port training, subject matter expertise exchanges, ceremonies and interactions, and diving and salvage training at General Santos Bay, Sarangani, the Philippine Navy (PN) said in a statement on Thursday, June 28.

The exercises will also feature medical, dental and engineering civic action projects as well as community relations activities at different locations in the General Santos City area, under the responsibility of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao command.

Part of the civil military operations will be held in Glan, a municipality in Sarangani province that was hit last month by flash floods that left two people dead and scores missing.

Joint deployment of forces

CARAT 2012 will involve 450 Filipino personnel, 400 from the Navy and 50 from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The PN will deploy four ships (corvettes BRP Magat Salamat and BRP Miguel Malvar, fast patrol craft Salvador Abcede, and coastal patrol craft BRP Teotimo Figuracion), and the PCG will provide the BRP Pampanga, which recently patrolled Scarborough Shoal.

On its side, the US has committed 350 Navy and 150 Coast Guard sailors and servicemen on board 2 Navy ships, the 4,100 ton frigate USS Vandergrift and salvage and the rescue ship USNS Safeguard, and the 4,306 ton cutter Waesche from the Coast Guard.

The naval war games will also include a PN Islander patrol aircraft and a PCG BO-105CB helicopter, while the Americans have earmarked two P3C Orion and SH-60B helicopters.

Improve capability

PN spokesman Col Omar Tonsay said that the goal of the naval drills is to “enhance combined interoperability capability with the US Navy and the Philippine-US Coast Guards, as well as test their personnel and naval assets operational readiness.”

US and Filipino officials inspect weapons before a funshot competition in General Santos. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion

Tonsay added that exercises like CARAT “improve the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by an exchange of doctrinal and tactical best practices.”

16th edition

CARAT is a series of annual bilateral military drills conducted by the United States Pacific Fleet with the navies of 7 Asean nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) and Bangladesh.

The first edition was held in 1995, and the Philippines has always taken part since the program started.

CARAT 2011 was staged in the waters off Puerto Princesa (Palawan) and the 2010 exercises took place in Zambales.

“The venue of the exercises rotates,” said Tonsay.

Apart from CARAT, Philippine and US troops also take part the Balikatan drills, which this year were conducted last April in various parts of the country with the participation of 2,300 Filipino and 4,000 American soldiers.

First time in this part of Mindanao

Commodore Philip Cacayan, commanding general of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, said that the US ships will arrive in Sarangani Bay on Sunday and noted that this is the first time that the American naval forces will hold their exercises in this part of Mindanao.

US Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Glazer, PN Commodore Philip Cacayan of the NFEM and PNP PRO 12 director Chief Supt Alex Monteagudo. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion

PN officials explained that CARAT is different from the Balikatan exercises, as the former do not involve war game maneuvers.

Militants in General Santos have denounced the drills and warned that increased American military presence in the Philippines may lead to the eventual establishment of new permanent bases in the country. – with reports from Edwin Espejo/Rappler.com

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