US Navy vessel USS Harpers Ferry (Photo courtesy of Wescom PAO)

The four naval vessels participating in the multilateral maritime exercise (MME) as part of Balikatan 39-2024 has left Puerto Princesa City on Thursday, April 25, and are now enroute to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) where they will conduct joint patrol drills.

Western Command spokesperson Captain Ariel Joseph Coloma said the four ships left Puerto Princesa port one hour apart beginning at 9 in the morning with the French FS Vendemiaire (F-374) leaving first, followed by Philippine Navy vessels BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) and BRP Davao del Sur (LD 602) and US Navy’s USS Harpers’ Ferry (LSD-49) last at 12:00 noon.

The four vessels will conduct offshore patrols in WPS until April 29.

Coloma further said that while enroute to WPS, the four vessels are already conductign training activities that include division tactics and officer-of-the-watch maneuvers,

“They are now sailing north and will traverse the eastern part of Palawan going to Mindoro Strait before heading out to the West Philippine Sea,” Coloma said in a telephone interview.

Once in WPS, he said other exercises that the four vessels will conduct are photo exercise and gunnery exercise.

After the MME, USS Harpers will break away from the group to perform other activities, while BRP Davao del Sur will join other activities of Balikatan.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz and FS Vendemiaire, on the other hand, will conduct joint sail from April 30 to May 3.

Meanwhile, Coloma explained that the MME, which is one of the major components of Balikatan, aims to enhance the four naval forces’ interoperability particularly between Philippines and the United States.