PH-US Joint Patrols Commence in West Philippine Sea

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MANILA, Philippines: The United States (US) and the Philippines have commenced a Maritime Cooperative Activity (MAC) in the West Philippine Sea. This marks the second time the two nations have engaged in joint operations in the disputed waters since last year.

In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that the two-day bilateral sail with the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) will encompass various activities. These include passing exercises, communication checks, crop-deck exercises, joint patrols, Officer of the Watch (OW) maneuvers, and fixed-wing flight operations.

The renewed MCA represents one of the most extensive sea patrols in which the US has participated alongside the AFP. The US Navy is deploying four vessels from the Carrier Strike Group 1, consisting of an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, two destroyers, and multiple combat aircraft. The AFP, on the other hand, has deployed four Navy vessels, a Search and Rescue/multiple-role helicopter, and an anti-submarine warfare capable helicopter.

The decision to conduct joint maritime patrols follows projections made by defense and military officials last year. “We can expect more patrols in the coming year,” said AFP spokesperson Aguilar, citing President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s statement that the maritime activity with the US, Canada, and Australia was “just a start.”

On the first day of the exercise, the US and Philippine naval assets rendezvoused at a designated area where they engaged in advanced maritime communication drills. The participating vessels also completed division tactics (DIVTACS), an exercise aimed at enhancing their confidence in maneuvering near other vessels. These exercises require seamless coordination between Philippine and US assets to enhance operational capabilities and interoperability.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. highlighted the significance of the 2nd maritime cooperative activity, stating, “It marks a significant leap in our alliance and interoperability with the United States. It also demonstrates our progress in defense capabilities and development as a world-class armed force as we carry out our mandate to protect the people and the state.”

Brawner added, “Our alliance is stronger than ever, sending a message to the world. We are advancing a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of regional challenges.”

China’s Senior Col. Wu responded to the joint activity by accusing the US of “selfish calculations” and conniving with the Philippines to infringe upon and provoke China. Wu further claimed that the US was attempting to threaten and coerce China with the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which Beijing dismissed as ineffective.

China’s spokesman urged the US to immediately cease meddling in the South China Sea issue and to stop emboldening and supporting the Philippines’ actions. They emphasized the importance of safeguarding regional peace and stability through concrete actions.

In conclusion, the US and Philippines have embarked on a Maritime Cooperative Activity in the West Philippine Sea, showcasing their commitment to a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region. This joint operation not only strengthens the alliance between the two nations but also enhances their defense capabilities and interoperability. As tensions continue in the South China Sea, the US and Philippines aim to protect regional peace and stability through their collaboration.

Source: The Manila Times

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