SAN FERNANDO CITY, Philippines --- The U.S. and Philippine navies kicked off maritime training activity Sama Sama at Naval Station Ernesto Ogbinar here today.
The week-long engagement focuses on the full spectrum of naval capabilities and is designed to strengthen the close partnership between both navies while cooperatively ensuring maritime security, stability and prosperity.
Expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket, diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor and a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft will operate alongside the Philippine navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz and landing dock ship BRP Tarlac in at-sea evolutions in the South China Sea.
Evolutions include air defense exercises aimed to increase proficiency in air and missile defense, diving exercises to promote mutual efficiency underwater, and search and rescue exercises designed to enhance capabilities in aid-and-assistance to distressed mariners.
Shore phase evolutions include symposiums and seminars on a wide range of naval capabilities, including medical, public affairs, engineering, explosive ordnance disposal and anti-submarine and surface operations, all taking place here and in San Antonio, Manila and Subic.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will join the exercise as an observer and valued partner.
"The name of this Maritime Training Activity, Sama Sama, -- meaning 'together, jointly' -- perfectly captures the spirit and energy of this tremendous event. The U.S. and Philippine alliance has always been a special relationship based on mutual trust and respect and strengthened by enduring maritime engagements," said Navy Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander of Task Force 73. "Built on 70 years of strong friendship and deep historical ties, our shared interest in maritime security is what maritime training activity Sama Sama is all about -- our shared belief that regional challenges increasingly require cooperative solutions by capable naval forces."
Sama Sama builds upon other engagements with the Philippines, including Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission; Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training, which involves more than a dozen partner nations; and Balikatan 34. These engagements serve to enhance information sharing and coordination and support long-term regional cooperation.
"This training provides us with an exceptional opportunity for both Philippine and U.S. navies to engage in a broader range of maritime operations and unique scenarios in our maritime areas," said Philippine Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of Northern Luzon Command. "In this way, we could explore for more cooperation, enhance our interoperability, and provide us effective mechanisms for collaboration and partnership of our navies in the spirit of our mutual treaty engagement
"Notably," he continued," this maritime training activity demonstrates the extraordinary commitment of our navies in building and strengthening our partnership in keeping with our bilateral relations as longtime ally. As such, this year's exercise focuses on developing mutual capabilities in addressing maritime security priorities and concern for mutual benefits and interests".
In July 2017, the U.S. and Philippine navies conducted a coordinated patrol in the Sulu Sea demonstrating a mutual commitment to responding to piracy and illegal transnational activity. Sailors from both navies exchanged best practices in visit, board, search and seizure techniques, as well as information sharing.
"It is incredible to see all that will be accomplished during this exercise, as sailors and Marines from the U.S. and Philippines work side by side across multiple domains to safely execute and engage on and under the sea, in the air, on land and in the local communities," said Navy Capt. Lex Walker, commander of Destroyer Squadron 7. "As the MTA continues to evolve in scope and scale, the U.S. and Philippine navies will continue sailing together towards the common goals of increased maritime security and stability."