Sarangani agrees to host mid-year PH-US naval exercises

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 February) — The town of Glan in Sarangani province will host the joint Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises involving naval forces of the Philippines and the United States, officials said.

Preparations for the two-week joint naval exercises have already commenced, with the US Navy, led by Captain Wally Lovely, visiting possible sites for the exercise’s civil-military operations (CMO).

In a statement late Monday afternoon, Glan Mayor Victor James Yap Sr. said the local government unit is thankful the town was chosen as the site of the joint naval exercises that will be held on June 28 to July 9.

“The event would help highlight the town’s growing importance, both from economic and strategic standpoints,” Yap said.

In the 1980s, information swirled that the United States was allegedly eyeing Glan’s Sumbang Point as a strategic future naval base.

Today, Glan is one of the sites in Mindanao with a Coast Watch Station, a facility equipped with radars and communication gadgets, among others, meant for intelligence gathering against threat groups both at sea and in land.

In an article titled “Sealing the ‘back door’ in the Philippines,” Dr. Peter Chalk, a senior analyst at the Research and Development Corp. (RAND), said the core objective of Coast Watch South is to provide a system of “maritime domain awareness” that facilitates the movement of desirable people and goods and contributes to the attainment of peace and development objectives in the western and southern Philippines.

RAND is a global non-profit think tank that seeks to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. Its global clients include government agencies, foundations and private sector firms.

The United States has underwritten the installation of the equipment through Department of Defense 1207 funding. This is a Pentagon authorized program that uses defense dollars to perform a State Department function, according to Chalk’s article published at the Strategic Insights of Risk Intelligence in August 2010.

There are three Coast Watch Stations now in Sarangani through the towns of Glan, Kiamba and Maitum.

Yap said the holding of the joint naval exercises in Glan hosted by the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NEFM) will boost the potentials of his town.

“People following up the developments on television will be able to see our beautiful white sand beaches, our rich vegetation, and the hospitality and gaiety of our people. That would be a big boost to our own tourism development efforts,” he said.

Touted as the “Coconut Queen of the South,” Glan boasts of fine white sand beaches in the village of Gumasa.

Codenamed “Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Exercise 2012,” the two-week activity aims to strengthen the relationship of both navies and enhance their mutual co-operation, said Navy Lt. Joseph Armand Sieras, NFEM operations officer.

For its CMO component, CARAT 2012 will conduct Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP), Dental Civic Action Program (DENCAP), Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) and Community Relations (COMREL) in selected barangays.

“Through these programs we hope to improve the quality of life and the general health and welfare of local residents, including government employees, and enable both navies to build a more personal relationship with them,” Sieras said in a briefing to local officials.

Yap and Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez have agreed to host the CARAT 2012 in formal acceptance rites aboard RPS Miguel Malvar docked at the Glan wharf.

The Visiting Forces Agreement allows US forces to conduct military exercises in the country. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)