PH Navy welcomes back vessels from RIMPAC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 27) — As the country celebrates National Heroes Day, the Philippine Navy had a heroes' welcome of their own as they celebrated the return of two vessels that participated in a world renowned naval exercise.

The 700-man Philippine Navy contingent with the BRP Andres Bonifacio and BRP Davao Del Sur vessels arrived at South Harbor, Manila on Monday, after participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Described as the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise, the month-long RIMPAC brings together 46 ships and submarines, 200 aircrafts, and 25,000 troops from 25 nations.

The exercise included missile engagement simulations, amphibious landing demonstrations, and explosive demolition operations.

It was the first time for the Philippines to participate in the exercise as contingents along with Vietnam, and Malaysia.

READ: U.S. trying to make friends, counter China with massive naval exercise

U.S. military leaders earlier said they invited new participants from the Indo-Pacific to "build relationships" especially among those who have claims in the South China Sea.

The U.S., however, disinvited China to the exercise for its militarization of contested islands.

"We work together, build relationships here, so later on ... it's hard to turn down a friend," said Vice Adm. John Alexander, commander of the U.S. Navy's 3rd Fleet.

The Philippine Navy also sent a contingent to participate in the Kakadu exercise in Australia and is set to deploy assets to Russia for a courtesy call visit next month.

CNN Philippines' Senior Correspondent David Santos contributed to this report