By Martin Sadongdong
The world’s most powerful navies will sail to the Philippines as it hosts for the very first time the highly anticipated International Fleet Review (IFR) 2020 this coming May.
The Philippine Navy will spearhead the event which is expected to be attended by Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, United States, Vietnam, and observer-countries such as Pakistan and Myanmar.
More than 20 countries are seen to send representatives in the fleet review including the United States, China, and Russia. At least 14 other nations have confirmed that they will be sending their warships, according to Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Philippine Navy (PN) Flag Officer in Command.
This year’s iteration of the fleet review will be held in the waters of Manila Bay, near Corregidor and Bataan, from May 19 to 21.
The IFR is an international maritime exercise which aims to promote cooperation and strengthen ties among participating navies around the world, Bacordo explained.
It is one of the highlights of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) which comprises the navies of countries bordering the Pacific Ocean region.
Under the WPNS that was inaugurated in 1988, member-countries convene biennially to discuss regional and global maritime issues.
The Philippines’ hosting of the IFR is deemed crucial with the current tension among claimant-countries in the South China Sea, including the Philippines and China.
Bacordo had earlier said that the Philippine Navy has concluded the two-day WPNS-IFR Final Planning Conference led by the Naval Education, Training, and Doctrine Command (NETDC) to iron out the details of the fleet review.
“It aimed to finalize the planning for the WPNS-IFR, confirm the concept of the IFR Plan and related activities, synchronize the planning of the different phases of execution, and resolve issues and concerns of all parties related to the conduct of the WPNS-IFR,” he said.
Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe, NETDC commander, urged the representatives of the 17 nations who were present in the planning conference to give their “sincere involvement and proactive participation to ensure the success of this event.”
“The PN is proud to host the fleet review that serves as a testament to the cooperation and camaraderie inspired by the shared aspiration of a free and safe Western Pacific,” Bernabe said.
BRP Jose Rizal (FF-15), the country’s first missile-capable frigate, will reportedly lead the PN contingent in the fleet review ahead of its expected delivery from South Korea in the third or fourth week of April.
The hosting of the IFR will coincide with the celebration of the PN’s 122nd founding anniversary on May 20. The theme for this year’s fleet review focuses on “Shared Ocean Governance.”