PH joins US-led naval exercises in Southeast Asia

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines’ navy and coast guard recently joined a US-led maritime exercise in Southeast Asia.

The Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) started in Singapore and online last Aug. 10. Twenty one countries from the Indo-Pacific region joined the multilateral exercise, the largest to date.

Participating countries were Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

The US Navy 7th fleet earlier said this year’s drills included 10 ships and more than 400 personnel. The exercises were designed to encourage countries to use maritime forces to enhance understanding of operational environments, build capacity for humanitarian support missions, and uphold international laws and norms.

The Philippine Coast Guard said its participation included the deployment of the BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407), Islander 684, and Coast Guard Special Operations Force in waters off Bataan last Aug. 14.

It also sent BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) and Coast Guard Aviation Force for a sea phase activity on waters in the vicinity of Patoyo Island last Aug. 16.

The Philippine Navy sent BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), an AW-109 helicopter and a Britten Norman Islander plane in activities held last Aug. 15 and 16 along the east coast of Palawan in Sulu Sea, the Naval Forces West said.

Two different exercises highlighted the interoperability capabilities of these assets with other units, it said.

Seminars on maritime domain awareness were also conducted online.

A maritime operations center in the International Fusion Center in Singapore served as a centralized hub for crisis coordination and information sharing as the participating navies track merchant vessels that were “simulating suspicious vessels of interests throughout Southeast Asian seas,” the US 7th Fleet earlier said.

The South China Sea is one of the world’s most crucial commercial gateways. China claims it entirely, but some Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines have competing claims.

Scenarios in the SEACAT were designed to “encourage countries to work together through maritime domain awareness assets to better understand operations and adherence to international norms,” Capt. Tom Ogden, commander of Destroyer Squadron said.

“Practicing multilateral, multi-platform intercepts help our Southeast Asian partners prepare for possible real-world engagements in the future,” he said.

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