MANILA - US Ambassador Sung Kim on Monday visited the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, which is docked at the Manila Bay for a port visit.
The US Embassy said the ship, which carries more than 2,500 sailors and Marines on board, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region "as part of a regularly scheduled patrol and provides a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster."
The diplomatic post said the ship's visit is not part of freedom of navigation operations.
Capt. Larry McCullen, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard, said the port call will boost bilateral ties between the Philippines and the United States and will also give the sailors an opportunity to experience Filipino culture.
The US sailors will also participate in a community relations project where service members will pack food and relief supplies for those affected by the eruption of Mayon Vocano.
The sailors participated in the multinational exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The ship is arriving with the embarked 3d Marine Division Marines.
McCullen said there are about 100 Filipino-American sailors on board, including Petty Officer First Class Edwin Matthew Buenafe Afante, who was born in Chicago and traces his roots in Tarlac. He is looking forward to seeing family and friends while in Manila. Afante serves as air traffic controller in the ship.
Visiting media personnel were given a briefing of the ship's capabilities and a tour of the ship's facilities that include a well equipped medical center. It also carries amphibious assault vehicles and landing craft utility that can be used in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.