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Philippine Navy eyes joint maritime exercises with Thai, Vietnamese counterparts

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Navy plans to hold joint maritime exercises with its Vietnamese and Thai counterparts as part of efforts to strengthen ties with the navies of neighboring Asian countries, a military spokesman said.

Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay disclosed this following the visit of a Philippine Navy delegation led by its chief, Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, to Vietnam on March 11-14 and Thailand on March 14-17.

The Philippine delegation toured the Naval Shipyard X46 or the Hai Long Shipbuilding Co. in Vietnam, which is equipped with state-of-the-art shipbuilding and repair facilities and which is capable of building warships and military vessels, Tonsay said.

“This visit is expected to provide opportunities for the conduct of joint maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea (northeast of Vietnam) and other common maritime domains following proper diplomatic channels under guidance from the Department of National Defense,” Tonsay said.

“Sharing of shipbuilding expertise is clearly seen as one possible area for cooperation during this tour,” Tonsay added. The delegation, he said, suggested possible training for Philippine Navy personnel at the X46 shipyard.

Likewise, the leaders of the two navies discussed a proposal to establish a communication hotline between the operations centers of the Philippine Navy and the Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) especially for search-and-rescue operations.

Pama and VPN’s commander in chief, Admiral Nguyen Van Hien, also signed the standard operating procedure regarding interactions among Philippine and Vietnamese navies’ personnel in the vicinity of Southeast Cay and the Northeast Cay Island, located between the two countries.

Nguyen offered to host the first “Navy to Navy Talks” with the Philippines in Vietnam in the last quarter of 2012, the Philippine Navy spokesman said.

“The visit paved the way for continued Staff to Staff Talks and exchange of visits between the Philippine Navy and VPN, which is hoped to sustain the active engagements of the Philippine Navy and the VPN and effectively address maritime security issues in common maritime domains,” Tonsay added.

In Thailand, Pama and other delegation members met with the Thai Ministry of Defense and held exploratory talks on avenues of cooperation for the Philippine Navy and the Royal Thai Navy (RTN). Joint maritime exercises and ship visits by the Thai Navy to the Philippines were also discussed.

Likewise, the RTN also committed to host Navy to Navy Talks to further discuss matters that will strengthen the bilateral activities of both navies.

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