A PHILIPPINE Navy ship held naval drills with two South Korean ships off Corregidor Island on Tuesday morning after Navy officials declined a port call request by the foreign ships due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Navy public affairs chief Lt. Cmdr. Maria Christina Roxas said the Korean ships, ROKS Kang Gam-chan and ROKS Soyang, are on transit to Malaysia. They are carrying medical supplies that will be donated to the Philippines.
“They requested (for a port call) but they were not allowed because of (the efforts against) COVID, there was no port call that took place…That’s (port call) the intension, to have a port call,” said Roxas.
Roxas said the two sides later decided to have a “mini exercise” off Corregidor instead, with the Philippine Navy dispatching the BRP Conrado, a corvette donated by the South Korean government last year, for the drill.
“With the prevailing pandemic, the ROKN (Republic of Korea Navy) opted for an at-sea exercise with the PN on their way to Malaysia in lieu of a port visit,” Roxas said.
“They conducted a training exercise, passing exercise and a little maneuver (drill) training),” Roxas said, adding the exercise started at 9 a.m. and lasted for about three hours.
Roxas said F-150 fighter jets from the Philippine Air Force flew at low altitude during the exercise. The jets were acquired from South Korea about three years ago under the AFP modernization program.
She said the Philippine Navy and South Korean ships initially had communication exercise, leading to the transfer of 10,000 pieces of face masks and 2,000 pieces of hand sanitizers to BRP Conrado Yap through rigid inflatable boats.
“It was followed by the three ships’ tactical maneuvers and culminated with a farewell sail.
PASSEX (passing exercise) is a customary undertaking to ensure that vessels and aircraft are able to communicate and cooperate with each other. It is also a form of rendering honors to transiting foreign naval vessels,” said Roxas.
Roxas said the activity seeks to reaffirm “the already strong ties between the Philippines and South Korea. ROKN has been among the key defense partners of the PN with their noteworthy contributions to the latter’s modernization journey,” added Roxas.