PartnershipsSoutheast Asia

ASEAN exercise, naval chiefs meeting demonstrate unity, ‘voice for peace’

Maria T. Reyes

Navies from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states displayed a united front in the South China Sea during the ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise (AMNEX) hosted by the Philippine Navy.

The exercise, conducted May 12-15, 2023, consisted of shore and sea phases, including the simulated rescue of a cruise ship being harassed by pirates off Zambales and Bataan provinces. ASEAN navy chiefs also established a task force to address the scenario.

“That’s where we’ll be able to test if our procedures and our doctrines match, so that if ever there will be a real scenario of piracy in the high seas, we will not have different procedures,” Brig. Gen. Edwin Amadar, the Philippine Fleet-Marine Ready Force commander who oversaw the exercise, told FORUM.

About 1,200 personnel and nine ships participated, including warships from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, while Cambodia and Laos sent observers.

The drills followed a fleet review of the ASEAN navies in Subic Bay, pictured, by Carlito Galvez Jr., senior undersecretary and officer in charge of the Philippine Department of National Defense. During the ASEAN Navy Chiefs Meeting (ANCM) in Manila, leaders agreed to establish maritime interaction guidelines to avoid unexpected incidents in the open seas.

The second edition of AMNEX and the 17th ANCM are among the regular defense exchanges to facilitate strategic dialogue and improve cooperation among militaries.

“What we’re doing here is not against anybody else but to unify and look for the common ground so that we can harmonize ourselves,” Galvez said. “When we gather together, our voice for peace for the ASEAN and Indo-Pacific will be loud and clear.”

The exercise also tested the new maritime interaction guidelines.

“It puts together the ASEAN navies to test our interoperability, our doctrines, our way of communicating and see if they align,” Philippine Navy Chief Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr. told FORUM.

“It’s a show of unity. We have different interests, but at the end of the day there are mutual interests that we can share, particularly furthering peace and order in our maritime waters,” Adaci said.

For the Philippine Navy, hosting the exercise was an unprecedented undertaking to demonstrate leadership and solidarity. It also allowed the Philippine Navy to test assets and enhance capacity, while reinforcing cooperation with ASEAN counterparts to address emerging maritime challenges.



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