The Philippine Coast Guard and Navy have teamed up with the United States armed forces for training that aims to boost interoperability and maritime security operations, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.
The US said their military conducted a tactical combat casualty care training with the PCG North Eastern Luzon District from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6.
The embassy said this is the first time the US military was able to train with the PCG in North Eastern Luzon directly, with 20 Coast Guard personnel participating.
The training included theoretical and practical sessions of basic lifesaving and tactical combat casualty care, as the program aimed to improve local forces’ response in maritime security operations and search and rescue.
The Philippine Navy and the US Navy also launched the fourth installment of their annual joint exercises called “Sama-Sama 2021.”
The training aims to focus on transnational crime, counterterrorism, anti-piracy, and anti-narcotics, among other things, as it reconstitutes the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).
The United States described the training as proof of the “close relationship” between Manila and Washington in “promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region by strengthening maritime law enforcement and maritime search and rescue.”
“It aims to enhance the interoperability of the region’s navies as they address maritime security concerns and preserve rules-based international order,” the Philippine Navy said in a statement.
“The training strengthened the medical capabilities of the participants who work in a wide range of environments during maritime and land-based operations,” the US embassy statement read.
“These skills can provide valuable skills in aiding both fellow PCG personnel, as well as any civilian personnel in need of aid,” it added.
While it was their first time to train with the US military, Lt. J.G. Dennis Rapal, chief of staff of the PCG North Eastern Luzon District, said they are hoping it would not be their last.
“This medical training will be a great benefit to the communities we serve, and we look forward to our continuing partnership,” Rapal noted.
According to the PH Navy, the French navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will be the observers of this year’s exercise.
A virtual ceremony was held on Monday.
Vice Admiral Adeluis Bordado, Philippine Navy’s flag officer-in-command, hoped that the exercise would help expand regional cooperation in the future.
He also sought for an intensified “information-sharing and coordination mechanisms.”
“In the spirit of solidarity, we are here today to fulfill a common goal – to prepare, re-skill, and upgrade our training in addressing a spectrum of security threats – from transnational crime to counterterrorism, piracy, and narcotics problem and of course, territorial defense issues,” Bordado said in his message during the ceremony.
“It is an excellent opportunity to work with and renew our close partnership and friendship with the US Navy, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, and the French Navy,” the vice admiral added.
He also assured the public and the officials that they would adhere to health protocols during the exercises amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late September, Washington reaffirmed the applicability of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to the disputed and resource-rich South China Sea, just as it reiterated its commitment to assist the country in its efforts to modernize the armed forces.
The West Philippine Sea is the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, where China maintains constant presence despite an arbitral ruling junking their overwhelming claims.