PH, US conclude joint maritime cooperation activity with navy exercises
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United States continued its patrol in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) on the final day of the maritime cooperation activity (MCA) with China sounding alarm on the bilateral drills.
Two Philippine Navy warships — the BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar — performed cross deck operations, officer of the watch maneuvers, and publication and communication exercises with the USS Gabrielle Giffords, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. told reporters that a Chinese vessel shadowed the patrols at around 10:15 a.m. some 27 nautical miles off the Malampaya platform in Palawan, according to a Philippine News Agency report.
Despite this, Brawner said there was no untoward incident, the report further said.
The USS Gabrielle Giffords has sailed the WPS since Wednesday as part of the bilateral drills which began on Tuesday.
The said littoral combat ship conducted a passing exercise with Navy corvette BRP Conrado Yap while US surveillance aircraft Boeing’s P8-A Poseidon was flying overhead.
During this activity, the reconnaissance plane also detected a Chinese aircraft and warship, as witnessed by Inquirer and a few other reporters onboard the Poseidon.
Poseidon crew spotted People’s Liberation Army’s Navy Jiangkai-II frigate tailing the bilateral maritime patrols, coming as close as five nautical miles.
A Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft of the PLA was also detected by the aircraft’s crew.
On the same day, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said that the bilateral patrols of Manila and Washington “must not hurt China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.”
Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including most of the WPS which encompasses the western section of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
An international tribunal ruling in 2016, however, dismissed China’s sweeping claim.
Other states, however, could still enjoy non-economic uses to an EEZ of one’s country such as freedom of navigation as well as the right of overflight.