THE United States (US) and Philippine navies will once again hone their joint maritime security skills and operational cohesiveness in a military exercise that will be held some 60 nautical miles from the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) where Chinese ships are stationed.
Last year, the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat), was held in the Mindanao Sea, a few nautical miles from the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, which is also being claimed by China.
Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Gerald Fabic said the Carat exercises had nothing to do with the maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing.
“It’s a five year planned exercise from 2011 to 2015. So it was planned way before the incident [in Panatag Shoal],” Fabic explained. “From 2011, the start of the exercise, to 2015, it will be held in different venues.”
Fabic said the training area is roughly 108 kilometers away from the disputed islet.
The Navy has committed a number of vessels and aircraft, as well as the Navy Special Operations Group and naval construction brigade for the exercises.
The Carat exercises will be held from June 27 to July 2. It is held in accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement and reaffirmation of the two countries’ obligations to each other under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
William B. Depasupil and AFP