THE Philippine Navy and the United States (US) Navy will hold a joint exercise in Cebu this week to enhance each other’s capabilities.
The military training activity called Samasama will address mutual security concerns that affect the country, including piracy and sea smuggling, maritime domain awareness and patrol, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness.
An opening ceremony was held yesterday at the Naval Base Rafael Ramos of the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) where officials of the two navies expressed how the exercise will benefit each of their organizations.
However, Capt. Alexis Walker, commander of Destroyer Squadron 7 of the US Navy, clarified that the activities this week have nothing to do with the crisis in Marawi City.
“We are concentrating only in the Visayas and the exercise has long been planned,” he told reporters.
Walker said the exercise is beneficial for the two navies as no organization can operate alone, particularly in times of disaster.
“We really need the assistance of our partners,” he said.
Commodore Loumer Bernabe, commander of Navforcen, supported the statement, saying the Philippine Navy and the US Navy have been partners in bilateral exercises for years now.
US Navy assets that will be used in this year’s exercise include the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF-3) along with a P-8 Poseidon aircraft.
USS Coronado arrived yesterday at the Cebu International Port.
Commander Douglas Meacher, commanding officer of USS Coronado, said the ship has a surface warfare mission package, which means they can deploy other assets inside the vessel.
The ship has two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two unmanned autonomous helicopters (MQ-8B) and a Seahawk (MH-60R) helicopter. It can travel at a minimum speed of 40 knots.
Sea assets from the Philippine Navy that will be used for the exercise include the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), BRP Agta, an AW109 helicopter, and a BN-2 Islander aircraft.
The sea and air assets will be used during the practical demonstration of the visit and board exercises off Bohol waters within the week.