The Philippines and the U.S. military conduct joint sea and air patrols in the South China Sea

The Philippines and the U.S. military conduct joint sea and air patrols in the South China Sea

On November 21, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced the conduct of joint patrols by the Philippine and US militaries in the South China Sea. Through media platform X, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that this week's three-day joint air and naval exercise was a "significant initiative" in enhancing interoperability between the two countries.

The statement comes amid rapidly improving relations between the two defense treaty allies, including a decision to nearly double the number of Philippine bases the US military can use.

According to Eugene Cabusao of the Northern Luzon Command, the patrol will be conducted in waters off the island of Mavulis. The island is located about 100 km from Taiwan and is the northernmost point of the Philippines.

The announcement comes a day after Marcos, speaking at a forum in Hawaii, described the situation in the South China Sea as “dire than it was before”. According to him, the Chinese military has moved closer to the Philippine coastline.

China has claimed most of the South China Sea through its "nine-dash line," which extends 1,500 km south of the mainland. These claims cut across the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Southeast Asian countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Marcos has repaired Manila's relations with Washington after his predecessor, who was closer to China, faced challenges in the relationship. Nevertheless, Beijing continued to build military facilities on artificial islands in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

In contrast, under Macros' leadership, relations with China deteriorated. This has been marked by frequent clashes between Chinese and Philippine vessels in waters claimed by both countries, leading to rising tensions and fears of conflict escalation between the two countries.

The joint sea and air patrol will begin in the Batanes island and move westward into the South China Sea, according to a Philippine military statement. The Philippines plans to deploy three naval vessels, two FA-50 light attack aircraft and one A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft. Meanwhile, the United States will include a Littoral Combat Ship and a P9-A maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea in Manila, said the joint patrols showed Manila's determination in dealing with the situation in the South China Sea. He added that this action reflects the determination of the current administration to pursue a stronger policy on the West Philippine Sea.

Source: Reuters

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