From Update Philippines (Jun 27): US, PH create brand new joint maritime exercise
In the past few years, United States Navy and Philippine Navy were conducting Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines every month of June. CARAT is a series of US Pacific Command-sponsored, US Pacific Fleet-led bilateral exercises held several times annually with Southeast Asia nations to strengthen relationships and enhance force readiness.
CARAT Philippines 2016 focused on combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, maritime domain awareness, and community service events.
However, after the Philippine government under the Duterte administration announced last year that CARAT and Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) with US Navy will be scrapped, Philippines and US navies this year launched a brand new maritime exercise named Maritime Training Activity Sama-Sama (together).
The inaugural activity was conducted June 19 to 25 with events mostly held in vicinity of Cebu. CARAT Philippines involved activities in West Philippine Sea.
“Sama Sama is a bilateral maritime exercise between U.S. and Philippine naval forces and is designed to strengthen cooperation and interoperability between the nations’ armed forces,” the US Navy said.
US assets deployed for MTA Sama-Sama were Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4), Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3), and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft.
Del Pilar-class frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), BRP Agta, an AW109 helicopter, and a BN-2 Islander aircraft, a Philippine Marine company and other naval staff represented the Philippine Navy.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said in November last year that military exercises between US and Philippines will focus on counterterrorism, humanitarian response, engineering projects, and civic action. Moreover, activities with amphibious landing exercises, which were intended for external offensives, will be lessen.