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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

PH, US hold 3rd joint maritime and air patrol in West PH Sea

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The United States and the Philippines held their third joint sea and air patrol in three months in the West Philippine Sea on Friday, the allies said.

The latest sea and air patrols came as Washington seeks to strengthen its defense ties in the region in the face of an increasingly assertive China.

The sea and air patrols involved the US combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords and an MH-60S SeaHawk helicopter, along with the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar warship and an AW109 helicopter.

The Philippine military said the patrol was held in its exclusive economic zone but did not provide an exact location.

“Sailing and operating together demonstrates our commitment to improving our interoperability and continued coordination,” Capt. Sean Lewis, commodore of US Destroyer Squadron 7, said in a statement.

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Philippine military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner said the patrol “fosters closer cooperation towards further enhancing our maritime capabilities.”

Philippine Navy Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of the Western Command, lauded the completion of the latest maritime cooperative activity (MCA).

“These cooperative ventures serve not just as training for our forces at sea but as a clear signal of our shared resolve to maintain regional peace and security,” Carlos said

The first joint sea and air patrol of the two allies was held in November and was followed by a second round in January, as China held military drills in the same waters. 

That came weeks after tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea that saw a collision between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannons at Philippine boats.

In separate exercises, the US and Japanese navies also held joint drills in the West Philippine Sea this month.

Washington, which has a mutual defense pact with Manila, has denounced aggressive Chinese actions towards its ally and vowed to keep open the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars worth of trade is shipped every year.

Beijing claims almost the entire waterway and has ignored an international ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

China also claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has vowed to seize the island, by force if necessary, ramping up pressure with major military drills in the Taiwan Strait.

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