MANILA, Philippines - Philippine and American troops are taking part in the annual naval war games between the 2 countries that started Monday, the military said.
Soldiers and ships from the Philippine Navy, the US Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the US Coast Guard will see action in the 2012 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises being held in the Mindanao Sea, Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay said.
"The exercise is expected to enhance interoperability (of the navies and coast guards of both countries) and at the same time provide opportunities for sharing of tactical and doctrinal best practices," Tonsay added.
US Ambassador Harry Tomas and AFP Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia led the formal launch of the war games in General Santos City that will last until Tuesday next week.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the exercises will strengthen the Philippines' naval defense capabilities.
The Philippine Navy and Coast Guard ships taking part in the war games include the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Magat Salamat (PS20), BRP Miguel Malvar (PS19), BRP Salvador Abcede (PG114), BRP Teotimo Figuracion (PG389), and BRP Pampanga (SARV 003).
The USS Vandergrift (FFG48), the USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), and USCG WAESCHE (WMSL751) are also part of the event.
The Philippine Navy also deployed one PN Islander (PNI 320) while the USN is providing a P3C Orion and a SH-60B helicopter. A BO-105CB helicopter came from the Philippine Coast Guard.
The exercises involve around 400 personnel from the Philippine Navy, 350 troops from the US Navy, 150 personnel from the Phillippine Coast Guard, and 150 from the US Coast Guard.
The annual war games involve surface, air, and special operations units who hold shore-based cross training exercises (CTX), diving exercises, salvage exercises, air operations exercises, at-sea fleet training exercises, as well as search and rescue exercises.
Tonsay said this year's war games are aimed against terrorism.
"Although not specifically aimed at enhancing counter-terror objectives, the list of activities lined up in-shore and at-sea would imply enhancements that may be related to counter-terror efforts such as shore-based cross training exercise and at-sea fleet training exercises," he said.
The military said the exercises are not related to the ongoing row between the Philippines and China over ownership of Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys.
"This is an annual activity planned long ago," Burgos said.