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‘23 Samasama exercise held

By Sally Altea

THE “2023 Samasama” exercise in the Bicol region has strengthened the Philippine Navy’s capabilities for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

Bicol’s geophysical location and features make it vulnerable to disasters. It is bounded by Lamon Bay to the North, Pacific to the East and Sibuyan Sea and Ragay Gulf to the West from which it is regarded as the typhoon corridor. The region is also home to three active volcanoes – Mayon in Albay, Bulusan in Sorsogon, and Isarog in Camarines Sur.

Typhoons Reming in 2006, Nina in 2016 and supertyphoon Rolly in 2020 were among the strongest calamities that hit the region.

Naval Forces Southern Luzon Commander Commodore Joe Anthony Orbe said the exercise is relevant and timely especially with Mayon Volcano’s ongoing unrest and tendency towards a hazardous eruption.

“I believe it’s timely because Bicol is one of the disaster-prone areas. In fact, during our opening ceremony, Mayon is still on Alert level 3 and effusive lava flow is ongoing. It’s just right that the Samasama exercise was held here and HADR is a big part of it,” he said.

Formerly known as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), the Samasama 2023 naval exercises focused on developing abilities to respond to regional crises and building capacities to address territorial defense over natural and man-made disasters, counter-terrorism, maritime security and transnational crimes.

“The things that we have learned in Samasama are applicable to conflict in any areas of concern especially with modern platforms that were actually new for us,’’ Orbe said.

US Commander Jun Chen, Destroyer Squadron foreign area officer, commended the participating countries for their dedication, professionalism and invaluable contributions in strengthening maritime alliance and capabilities.

“We saw a great capability enhancement that can open future expansion for the Philippine Navy on HADR and other things that we can do,” he said.

“This year’s exercise has been historic, with a record-breaking of over 1,500 marines, sailors, airmen, and guardians from multiple nations committed to the principles of peace, security, and prosperity in our maritime domain,” Chen added.

Together with the Philippines and US are the naval forces of Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia. Navy officials from New Zealand and Indonesia also joined as observers. (With reports from Cyryl L. Montales - PIA5/Albay)


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