MANILA: Warships and navy delegates from around the world will converge in Manila for a three-day event in May as the Philippines hosts the International Fleet Review (IFR) for the first time. America, Russia and China have all confirmed their presence at the event, so the IFR will bring together naval powers whose encounters at sea have often been fraught with tension.
The IFR is part of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), which will take place from May 19 to 21.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer-in-Command Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo talked about the significance of the IFR and WPNS in the context of evolving maritime geopolitics and the increasing complexity of its challenges.
“These are confidence-building activities that show navies can work together for a common cause,” Bacordo said.
He described the WPNS, a biennial meeting of navies bordering the Pacific region, as “a promising platform to enhance naval cooperation and establish maritime security initiatives.”
Bacordo added that the WPNS, in particular, aims to build trust and confidence between navies by providing a framework to enable “the discussion of maritime issues of mutual interest, the exchange of information, the practice and demonstration of capabilities, and the exchange of personnel.”
“It is more than just a navy protecting (its) own country, but rather navies protecting the world,” he said.
As for the IFR, Bacordo said this was a major diplomatic event which will show that “these ships can exist in one space without causing tensions.”
He explained: “When they arrive here, the main program will be the symposium for the chiefs of navies. Then after a two-day discussion, on day three we expect to have the IFR, which will be held at Manila Bay, in the vicinity of Corregidor and Bataan.”
Navies from 24 nations, including Australia, Brunei, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam, as well as observer countries including Pakistan and Myanmar are expected to participate in the three-day event.
While the 24 member states are all expected to send delegates to the event, 14 of them — including Russia, the US, Vietnam and Thailand — have committed to sending ships.
On Monday, Russia’s Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev confirmed to Arab News that Moscow will be deploying “a detachment of Russian navy ships and a submarine” for the IFR — marking the first time a Russian submarine will be in the Philippines.
“Yes, (it will be) the first time — but as partners and friends. I would be happy to invite you to visit the Russian submarine just to communicate with the Russian seamen and (to) see that all of them are normal, friendly people,” Khovaev said at the reception for Russian Armed Forces Day on Monday.
The US is reportedly considering sending one of its aircraft carriers to take part, while China is also expected to deploy vessels for the event, Bacordo said.