Prior to the joint maritime exercises between the naval forces of the Philippines and the United States this month, the two countries conducted its annual Balikatan exercises which focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV, File

Philippines, US navies hold joint maritime training in Cebu
(Philstar.com) - June 19, 2017 - 5:49am

MANILA, Philippines — The naval forces of the Philippines and the United States on Monday kicked off its joint maritime training activity in the vicinity of Cebu.

The Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama from June 19 to 25 seeks to enhance the complexity and diversity of training opportunities while strengthening the Philippines-US alliance.

The activity will focus on mutual security concerns such as piracy and sea smuggling, maritime domain awareness and patrol and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness.

"We thank the Philippine Navy and the people of the Philippines for being gracious hosts and we look forward to enhancing our professional ties in meaningful ways that benefit both nations," Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander of Task Force 73, said.

Gabrielson added that the joint training would be an opportunity to deepen the US Navy's long-time maritime partnership with the Philippine Navy.

Commodore Loumer Bernabe, commander of the Naval Forces Central of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that the training will strengthen relationships and partnerships in maritime cooperation.

"We are honored to work with the U.S. Navy during this Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama," Bernabe said.

"Sama-sama," a Filipino word which means "together" is the central theme of the training both at sea and ashore.

The joint exercise between Filipino and American naval forces would provide opportunities for them to learn and operate together at sea.

"Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama is an ideal framework to strengthen our relationship with our partners in the Philippine Navy and to enhance readiness through training and evolutions ashore and at sea," Destroyer Squadron 7 Capt. Alexis Waler said.

US assets that will participate in this year's Sama Sama include 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.

Meanwhile, Philippine Navy units Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), BRP Agta, an AW109 helicopter, and a BN-2 Islander aircraft will join the exercises.

US Marines assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Navy Seabees, and staff from Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7, as well as Philippine Marine company and other naval staff will participate in the activity.

The two countries regularly conduct personnel exchanges through routine participation in exercises such as Balikatan, Southeast Asian Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), the Rim of the Pacific exercise, the Asian Defense Ministers’ Meeting and other bilateral and multilateral exercises. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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