05 October 2012

More US navy ships visit Subic

At least seven United States Navy ships—a submarine, amphibious assault vessels, a helicopter carrier, and destroyers —were expected to arrive in the Philippines in the next few days to take part in a massive joint military exercises involving the two countries, officials said on Thursday.

Lt. Cherry Tindog, director of the Philippine Marine Corps Public Affairs Office, said the 10-day exercises will kick-off on October 8 near Palawan and Zambales provinces, a highly strategic area because of the territorial row between the Philippines and China over a group of islands in the West Philippine Sea.

During the maneuvers, dubbed the PH-US Amphibious Landing Exercise 2013, a US Marine air-ground task force would link up with 1,2000 Filipino troops, Tindog said.

The USS Olympia, a Los Angeles class submarine, was the first to arrive in the country. The helicopter-carrier, USS Bonhomme Rchaird, an amphibious assault ship with 2,200 US Marines, and two destroyer ships were expected to arrive at the Subic Freeport on Friday.

The amphibious landing exercise could be one of the most massive activities compared to previous PH-US Balikatan Exercises under the visiting Forces Agreement. Other than the Marine contingents, the USS Bonhomme Richard will also be carrying amphibious assault vehicles, light armoured vehicles and Harrier fighter jets.

Philippine participants in the exercise will include the Marines, the Army, the Air Force, the Navy Air Group and Special Operation Group, Tindog said.

He said the exercises in the Palawan area—which has territorial jurisdiction over the Spratly’s and Zambales, which considers the Panatag Shoal as part of the province—were intended “to enhance the strong defense partnership between the Philippines and the United States.” (Willie E. Capulong, Manila Standard Today)