The navies of the US and Philippines have started their annual cooperation afloat readiness and training (CARAT) exercises in the Mindanao Sea.
Philippines Navy spokesman colonel Omar Tonsay said that the exercise was intended to enhance interoperability of the participating navies and coast guards, as well as improve opportunities for sharing of tactical and doctrinal practices.
"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," Tonsay added.
Around 400 and 150 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard respectively have joined 350 and 150 members of the US Navy and Coast Guard for the exercise.
The Philippine Navy and Coast Guard will be represented by vessels, including 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).
US Navy and Coast Guard assets participating in the exercises include the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Vandergrift (FFG4, salvage ship the USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), and the cutter USCG WAESCHE (WMSL751).
The Philippine Navy's PN Islander (PNI 320) patrol aircraft and BO-105CB helicopter, as well as the US Navy's P3C Orion and a SH-60B helicopter are also taking part in the drills.
Activities include shore-based cross training exercises (CTX), diving, salvage, air operations, at-sea fleet training, as well as search and rescue.
The CARAT 2012 exercise is schedule to end on 10 July.