THE Philippine Navy has sent a naval task force to Hawaii that is set to formally join the world’s biggest maritime exercises in the next few days, although at home, it is unable to challenge China and with its regular patrol lacking in the country’s waters.
The Navy’s presence in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018 exercise, the world’s biggest naval exercise, through its big contingent, underscored the importance of the country’s military relations with its allies, Navy spokesman Commander Jonathan Zata said.
But while the Navy maneuvers along with other military ships during the exercise in the waters of the Pacific, the Chinese maintain their permanent and unchallenged presence deep into the country’s maritime waters by way of Scarborough Shoal and Sandy Cay in the West Philippine Sea.
Zata said on Sunday the contingent composed of the BRP Davao del Sur (LD 602) and BRP Andres Bronifacio (FF17), with 700 sailors and Marines on board, joined other military warships for a group sail while passing through the Johnson Atoll in the Pacific Ocean en route to Hawaii.
“The embarked Augusta Westland [AW-109] naval helicopter captured the Philippine Navy vessels in formation with Japanese Ship ISE [DDH182]; India Navy Ship SAHYADRI [F19]; United States Ship Wolliam P Lawrence (DDG110) and Republic of Singapore Ship Tenacious  as they sail to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific [RIMPAC] 2018 exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise,” Zata said.
The Navy contingent called Naval Task Force RIMPAC left South Harbor in Manila on June 1 for Cebu, from where it left on June 6 for Hawaii to make its presence for the first time in the world’s largest maritime exercise, to be held officially from June 27 up to August 2 in and around the islands of Hawaii.
Aside from the two Navy ships, joining the contingent led by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino as commander of the NTF RIMPAC were a naval special operations group team, a Marine company and components from civil military operations (CMO), training, medical, legal and students from different Navy education and training schools.
“The Philippine Navy’s participation to RIMPAC 2018 through sending contingents and its largest ship, a frigate and modern naval helicopter is another milestone both for the Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to build and enhance relationship with other participating navies,” he added.
The Navy said the modernization program, which is beefing up the capability of even the other major armed services of the military, has allowed it “to send a contingent to RIMPAC 2018 thus, further fulfilling its diplomatic role in keeping peace and stability in the region.”
The attendance of the Navy in the international maneuvers and training, which has excluded China, however, takes place while the country grapples with Beijing’s de facto control of Scarborough and Sandy Cay and its militarization of the South China Sea.
Recently, a Chinese vessel also harassed the Navy’s resupply mission for troops stationed in the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal; and a Chinese Coastguard unit confiscated the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal. The seizing of the prized catch – mostly expensive groupers – was later billed as a “barter,” with the Chinese side giving the Filipinos noodles and cigarettes.