The Philippine Coast Guard on Thursday welcomed the arrival of its United States and Japanese counterparts in Manila as the first-ever trilateral maritime exercises officially began.
Billed as “Kaagapay Maritime Exercise 2023,” the event aim to improve interoperability among the three countries through communication exercises, maneuvering drills, photo exercises, maritime law enforcement training, search and rescue and passing exercises.
PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said the maritime exercise would also deal with illegal fishing, smuggling, and a scenario against a suspected vessel involved in piracy.
Asked if the trilateral exercise is related to the ongoing territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea, Balilo said no.
He added that there will be no scenarios involving the Chinese Coast Guard roaming inside the country’s exclusive economic zone.
PCG said that it will deploy BRP Melchora Aquino, BRP Gabriela Silang, BRP Boracay, and one 44-meter multi-role response vessel for the drills.
The Japanese Coast Guard arrived at Pier 13 onboard the 91.7-meter-long Akitsushima with its Commanding Officer Captain Toru Imai. The United States Coast Guard came shortly afterward with the USCGC Stratton with its commander Capt. Brian Krautler, the 6th Commanding Officer of the CGC Stratton.
“We’re eager to join the Philippine and Japan Coast Guards and participate in meaningful engagements with our allies and partners both in port and at sea,” Krautler said.
“This first trilateral engagement [among] the coast guards of these nations will provide invaluable opportunities to strengthen global maritime governance through professional exchanges and combined operations. Together we’ll demonstrate professional, rules-based standards of maritime operations with our steadfast partners to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Roughly 400 participants are expected to join in the drills, with about 200 personnel from the PCG, 80-100 from the USCG, and 60 to 70 from the JCG.
Kaagapay Maritime Exercise 2023 is slated to run from June 1 to June 7 in the waters off Mariveles, Bataan.
“Today, Japan has taken another step forward towards reinforcing maritime domain awareness and maritime law enforcement as affirmed in the Japan-Philippines Joint Statement. We will concretely advance cooperation with the Philippines to bolster maritime security capabilities and freedom of navigation,” Matsuda said.
The Japanese embassy Charges d’affaires (CDA) ad interim Matsuda Kenichi affirmed Japan’s support for the trilateral maritime exercise, saying “the shared history between Japan, the Philippines and the United States realizes a free and open international order in the Indo-Pacific region.”