Senior Chief Electrician’s Mate Wilbert Dispolo checks the distance of surface contacts using an alidade on the bridge of USS Tortuga (LSD 46) as the ship transits Manila harbor, April 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

MANILA, Republic of the Philippines - Forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) arrived in Manila April 2 for a port visit and preparation for exercise Balikatan.

"It's very exciting to be visiting our friends in Manila," said Cmdr. John Barnett, commanding officer, Tortuga. "This port visit, as well as exercise Balikatan, gives our Sailors and Marines a chance to strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and the Philippines."

In addition to the Balikatan exercise, Sailors and Marines will be given the opportunity to experience the rich culture of the Philippines with various tours of local historic locations and regional attractions provided by the ship's morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) association.

"MWR Manila offers paint ball, zip-lining, golf, as well as tickets to the new Ocean Park Aquarium." Said Ensign Patrick Tabi, Tortuga's MWR officer. "Sailors who are looking for ways to enjoy Manila have many great options to choose from."

Many Sailors will also be able to spend time with their families and friends who are residents of the Philippines.

"I'm excited to see my family," said Engineman Fireman (SW) Dariel Colcol, a native of the Philippines. "I haven't been to Manila in five years; I'm interested in seeing how much has changed."

Tortuga is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.