Naval Forces Western Mindanao joins 6-nation exercise

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/15 June) – The Naval Forces Western Mindanao is participating in the 10-day annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) that kicked off Tuesday, June 14.

A Philippine Navy official said the unit forms part of the Philippine contingent that joined the navy forces from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States Navy in the combined exercise aimed to enhance interoperability and share best practices.

Codenamed SEACAT 2011, it is being held in Malacca Strait, Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea and will end on Friday, June 24.

SEACAT 2011 exercise director Navy Captain Sebastian Pan said the other Philippine Navy contingents are from the Naval Forces West and Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao.

Pan said they will participate together with the U.S. Navy in a scenario-driven fleet training exercise against terrorism, transnational crimes and other maritime threats which focuses on real time information exchange, coordinated surveillance operations, tracking, and eventual conduct of Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) to the maritime Contact of Interest (COI).

“This activity will involve surface, air, and special operations units in the conduct of surveillance, tracking, and boarding of the COI from the different participating navies within their respective maritime territories,” Pan said in a statement.

He said three ships from the NFWM, NFEM and NFW commands are participating in this year’s SEACAT 2011 exercise.

As practiced in the yearly SEACAT, Pan said that several ships from each participating Southeast Asian navy will join the training with the one U.S. Navy ship, USS Safeguard, designated as the COI for the participating Southeast Asian navies.

He said one maritime interdiction operations scenario with boarding opportunity will be conducted at the Sulu and Mindanao Seas.

He said the SEACAT exercise is a yearly combined exercise conducted at vital sea lanes in Southeast Asia to ensure control of vital sea lanes from terrorists, poachers, and transnational lawless elements.

“This exercise aims to promote regional coordination, information sharing and interoperability in a multilateral environment,” Pan said.

With this exercise, Pan said the Philippine Navy will be able to enhance regional coordination, information sharing, and combined inter-operability capability with participating  navies in the region, test its personnel and naval assets operational readiness and ultimately, improve the defense capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (MindaNews)