PH strengthens naval ties with US, Japan
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is looking to strengthen cooperation between its naval fleet and its counterparts in the United States and Japan through activities such as joint training and capability development that will be “mutually beneficial” to the three forces, as Manila and its partners reinforce their alliance amid heightened tensions with China.
US Navy 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas and Japan Self-Defense Fleet commander in chief Vice Adm. Akira Saito paid a courtesy call to Philippine Navy chief Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr. in Manila on Sunday. Adaci was joined by Philippine Fleet commander Rear Adm. Renato David.
The three navies discussed how they may collaborate as partners on various activities, including capability development, training, and subject matter exchanges, the Philippine Navy said in a statement.
Asked about the meeting during a press conference aboard the visiting Japanese warship JS Izumo (DDH-183) on Sunday, Saito said the Philippine Navy had conveyed their “areas of interest” for cooperation.
“I can’t go into details because of the other sides, but we discussed the possibility of participating and enhancing the capabilities of each navy while taking advantage of the unique characteristics of each navy in training,” he told reporters after a ship tour.
The Navy has also been invited to participate in Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) training as observers, Saito added.
Last June, the coast guards of the three countries held their inaugural joint exercises, the first major security engagement since President Marcos’ visits to Tokyo in February and Washington in May, where talk of trilateral cooperation was raised in response to Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The three countries are also pursuing closer security ties with Australia.
The navies of the four countries conducted their first quadrilateral joint exercises near Manila last week, in an apparent display of unity amid Chinese aggression.
“The JMSDF will strengthen the Japan-US alliance to deter and counter threats, further improve interoperability with the Royal Australian Navy, and improve bilateral defense cooperation with the Philippine Navy for regional peace and stability and the maintenance of maritime order,” Japan’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement on the drills.
Saito said the four-way drills had been planned ahead and that recent events in the West Philippine Sea, where China harassed Filipino vessels on recent resupply missions, were “not a trigger” to hold the joint exercises.
But he said he was aware that “China is engaged in coercive activities in the South China Sea” and similar activities had been observed in Japan.
“Against this backdrop, our country has a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and is making various efforts in the region,” Saito said.
British envoy visit
Like these allies, the United Kingdom is likewise keen on enhancing ties with the Philippines with the visit of British Foreign Minister James Cleverly on Aug. 29.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and Cleverly would hold bilateral talks and exchange views on “pressing regional issues” including maritime security.
During his one-day visit to Manila, Cleverly will also be calling on other high-level officials of the Philippine government.
“The visit is anticipated to reaffirm [Philippines-UK] ties and demonstrate mutually strong cooperation between the two governments, in line with the PH-UK Enhanced Partnership, which was launched in November 2021,” the DFA said in a statement.
During the partnership’s launch two years ago, the Philippines and the UK agreed to work closer on defense cooperation, cybersecurity, green investments, and battling COVID-19.
Cleverly’s visit will be the first since 2016 that a British foreign secretary will set foot in Manila, the DFA said, noting that the Philippines and the UK just celebrated the 77th anniversary of their diplomatic relations on July 4.
The meeting between the two officials followed their bilateral discussion on the sidelines of the 56th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta last July.
“[I] am pleased that the PH-UK enhanced partnership continues to grow from strength to strength,” Manalo said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) after the meeting.
“From trade and investment to maritime security and climate, the UK and Philippines partnership continues to grow stronger,” Cleverly responded.