MANILA - The Philippine Navy will begin Monday separate naval drills with its two major allies, US and Japan, near the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Officials from the Philippine and US Navies are set to open the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) at the Naval Station Apolinario Jalandoni in Puerto Princesa City on Monday.
The exercises, which will run until Thursday, will involve around 300 Filipino soldiers and around 300 Americans.
Navy Philippine Fleet public affairs officer Lt. Liezl Vidallon said the Philippines will use an AW-109 helicopter and an Islander plane, while the US will use the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard and a P-3C surveillance aircraft.
Meanwhile, the exercises with Japan will also begin Monday upon the arrival of the Japanese Navy P-3C Orion aircraft in Palawan. The exercises will run until Wednesday.
Vidallon said the US and Japan exercises are not linked at all.
Navy spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said it's only incidental that the exercises will be done in Palawan waters fronting the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
“We can say that these activities are incidentally being held there (in Palawan). It’s not in any way intended to make any statement at all,” he said.
The Philippines earlier engaged the help of the international community in pressuring China to stop its reclamation activities in the disputed seas.