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PH, Australia launch maritime drills in Palawan

/ 03:27 PM July 16, 2018

The Philippines and Australia launched 10-day joint maritime exercises in Palawan. /PHOTO courtesy of Western Command

The Philippines and Australia on Monday launched 10-day joint maritime exercises that will take place in the waters adjacent to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to address threats of kidnapping and terrorism.

“The said bilateral activity aims to enhance training, interoperability and cooperation between the Philippine Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in addressing terrorism and kidnapping activities within Palawan water lanes that are of common interest to the two countries,” said Cpt. Cheryl Tindog, spokesperson of the Western Command in a statement.

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Palawan is also close to Sulu Sea, an area frequently facing threats of kidnapping and piracy.

The exercises kicked off in a ceremony held in Naval Station Apolinario Jalondoon covered court in Puerto Princesa City. The activity will run until July 25.

Australian navy vessels HMAS Ararat and HMAS Wollonggong, and Philippine Navy ships BRP Simeon Castro (PC 374), BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF 16) will be the assets used for the joint drills.

Activities in the coming days include interoperability exercises on naval communication system, planning, individual shipboard training, maritime surveillance and search and rescue, Tindog said.

Australia’s military relationship with the Philippines has been more felt since the Marawi siege last year through its various forms of assistance, but the two countries have long had strong defense ties.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and United States also launched week-long joint maritime drills in La Union last July 9, with Japan as observer.

The drills were held in areas under the jurisdiction of Northern Luzon Command, including Zambales, the province closest to China-controlled Scarborough Shoal.

Both drills with traditional allies are taking place adjacent to the South China Sea, where China has built artificial runways and equipped them with runways, missiles, and other military facilities. The West Philippine Sea refers to the waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Concerns have mounted as China reportedly installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile system and communications jamming equipment in the disputed waters earlier this year.    /vvp

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