Philippines and US Undertake Second Joint Maritime Patrol in West Philippine Sea

Philippines and US Undertake Second Joint Maritime Patrol in West Philippine Sea

Last Wednesday (January 3), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced its second maritime cooperation with the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) in the West Philippine Sea, a term used by Manila to refer to waters in the South China Sea within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In its official statement, the AFP specified that this joint operation would include various strategic exercises, including passing drills, communications checks, deck crossing exercises, joint patrols, officer of the watch maneuvers, and fixed-wing flight operations conducted in cooperation with USINDOPACOM.

General Romeo Brawner, AFP Chief of Staff, stated that this second maritime cooperation represents significant progress in alliance and interoperability with the United States. In his statement, General Brawner also emphasized that this activity serves as a testament to the advancement of defense capabilities and the development of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a world-class military in line with its mandate to protect the people and the nation.

General Brawner emphasized that their alliance has grown stronger, sending a message to the world and advancing an international rules-based order that supports a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of regional challenges.

The activity is scheduled to take place from January 3-4. During the event, the AFP will deploy four Philippine Navy ships along with utility and anti-submarine helicopters. USINDOPACOM, on the other hand, will include Navy ships from Carrier Strike Group One, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The US Indo-Pacific Command ships include an aircraft carrier, a cruiser and two destroyers.

The first joint patrol between the Philippines and the United States took place in November 2023, involving air surveillance missions with assets from both air forces. This cooperation coincided with heightened tensions with China over Ayungin Shoal.

Other nations have also expressed intentions to conduct joint patrols with the Philippines in the highly disputed region.

Meanwhile, China announced that its navy and air force would conduct routine patrols in the South China Sea on January 3 and 4, without specifying the exact location.

Xerxes Trinidad, chief of the Philippine military's public affairs office, confirmed the presence of two PLA-N ships monitoring the maritime cooperation activity from a distance.

In recent months, Beijing and Manila have traded accusations over several incidents in the South China Sea. One of the accusations is that China last month collided with a Philippine military vessel carrying the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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