COMBINED Filipino and American forces open today their 12-day naval war exercises to test their readiness against a perceived common enemy off the coast of Palawan, near disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Capt. Reyson Talingda, spokesman, 3rd Marine Brigade, on Sunday said the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex 15) would formally start with an opening ceremony at the Naval Forces West headquarters in Barangay San Miguel, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The Naval Forces West is under the Western Command (Westcom), which is in charge of overseeing the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.
Talingda said the bilateral exercises would be participated in by an estimated 4,000 members of the Philippine Navy and Marines together with their American counterparts.
At least two US ships, the USS Peleiu, an amphibious assault ship, and the USS Germantown, an amphibious dock landing ship of the US 7th Fleet, have arrived at Subic Bay Freeport to join the exercises.
Talingdad said there would be live-fire exercises at Crow Valley in Capas, Talrac; boat raid exercises at Arrecife Island, Sofronio Espanola, Palawan; mechanized assault exercises at Naval Education Training Center in Zambales; and combined fire exercises, also at Crow Valley.
Earlier, Naval Pubic Affairs Office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marideth Domingo said the general objective of Phiblex is to improve inter-operability and combat readiness of Filipino and American forces and enhance security cooperation in the region.
But according to Domingo, the training at the Wescom area would be more comprehensive compared to that in Luzon.
The Wescom training, she said, would include, among others, military exchange in tactical warfare simulation, amphibious operations, maritime security planning and command-post exercises, while those in Zambales would be mostly on humanitarian assistance and community relations activities.
The Wescom has jurisdiction over the Pag-asa Island Group, Ayungin Shoal, Recto Bank and Scarborough Shoal, which China claims as part its territory under its so-called nine-dash line demarcation.
Such demarcation encompasses almost the entire Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea, parts of which are also being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.