A JOINT maritime exercises aimed to strengthen defense cooperation between the Philippines and Australia to address threats of global terrorism kicked off on Friday, November 10, in Zamboanga City.
The combined Philippine Navy-Royal Australian Navy Maritime Security Engagement will be held until December 1 along the area of responsibility of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM).
Rear Admiral Rene Medina, NFWM commander, disclosed the joint maritime exercises will be held in “high risk” areas within the jurisdiction of his command.
Medina said the high risk areas are the Pearl Bank in Tawi-Tawi; waters of Pangutaran, Sulu; sea lane from Basilan up to the Moro Gulf; and, the waters in Sibuco, Sirawai, Siocon and Baliguian or the trip “SB” area in Zamboanga del Norte.
He said the joint maritime exercises is likewise in support to the anti-terrorism and piracy campaign of the government.
Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely said the joint maritime security operation is part of the enhanced Philippines-Australia defense cooperation, which was recently agreed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne.
“Australia and the Philippines has a shared responsibility in combating the threats post by global terrorism,” Gorely said.
The kicked off ceremony of the joint maritime exercises was highlighted by the arrival of Australia’s HMAS Larrakia (ACPB-84) and HMAS Maitland (ACPB-88), both Armidale Class Patrol Boats of RAN, in the city.
HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Maitland, are skippered by Commander Mitchell Edwards and Lieutenant Jonathon Little, respectively. The two vessels will participate in the joint exercises.
Medina said four vessels of the NFWM’s Naval Task Force 61 will join the maritime exercises.
These are the following: BRP-Davao del Sur (LD-602); BRP-Dioscoro Papa (PC-381); BRP-General Mariano Alvarez (PS-28); and, BRP-Emilio Liwanag (PC-118).
Medina said the 21-day activity is a follow up to the successfully held Passing Exercises and Communications and Electronics Exercise from September 22 to 25 in the Sulu Sea.
The BRP-Ramon Alcaraz, one of PN’s frigates, participated in the two events, with HMAS Parramatta as the counterpart from the RAN.
Meanwhile, a welcome ceremony was held at the local port where the HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Maitland had docked.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, Australian Defense Attache Bradley Ian White and other officials joined Medina and Gorely in the welcome ceremony. (SunStar Philippines)