Service members from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and Armed Forces of the Philippines attend the exercise's opening ceremony, June 19. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Micah Blechner)

CEBU, Philippines - The U.S and Philippine navies are participating in Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama in the vicinity of Cebu, June 19-25.

Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama is designed to enhance the complexity and diversity of training opportunities, while strengthening the longstanding alliance between the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines.

The exercise will focus on mutual security concerns that affect the Philippines including piracy and sea smuggling, maritime domain awareness and patrol, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness.

"The training we will perform over the next week will provide excellent opportunities to deepen our long-time maritime partnership with the Philippine Navy," said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander, Task Force 73. "We thank the Philippine Navy and the people of the Philippines for being gracious hosts and we look forward to enhancing our professional ties in meaningful ways that benefit both nations."

The Tagalog phrase “Sama Sama” or “together” is the central theme of the training both at sea and ashore. The exercise provides valuable opportunities for both navies to learn and operate together at sea and foster professional dialogue during subject matter expert exchanges.

"We are honored to work with the US Navy during this Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama," said Commodore Loumer P. Bernabe, Armed Forces of the Philippines." Our training together will strengthen our relationships at the operator level and will also strengthen our alliance and partnership in maritime cooperation."

The U.S. and the Philippines continue to work together on a number of initiatives and conduct regular personnel exchanges through routine participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises such as Balikatan, Southeast Asian Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC), the Asian Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM Plus), and many other bilateral subject matter expert exchanges.

"Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama is an ideal framework to strengthen our relationship with our partners in the Philippine Navy and to enhance readiness through training and evolutions ashore and at sea," said Capt. Alexis Walker, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "With more than 20 years of experience working together, we are able to plan and execute exercises like the Maritime Training Activity that address shared maritime security priorities and enhance interoperability between our two navies.”

U.S. assets participating in this year’s exercise include the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) along with a P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Marines assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Navy Seabees, and staff from Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 will also participate.

The Philippine Navy units will include the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), BRP Agta, an AW109 helicopter, and a BN-2 Islander aircraft, a Philippine Marine company and other naval staff will also join the exercise.

As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Task Force 73 conducts advanced planning, organizes resources, and directly supports the execution of maritime exercises, such as Pacific Partnership, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multi-lateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

USS Coronado (LCS 4) file photo. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Deven Leigh Ellis)