PH partners next with Australia for WPS joint patrols
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and Australia have launched their first joint patrol of the West Philippine Sea, two days after Filipino and American military forces wrapped up similar air and naval maneuvers.
In a statement issued with his Filipino counterpart on Saturday, Australia Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles said the three-day Maritime Cooperation Activity (MCA) shows that Manila and Canberra are “firmly committed to a peaceful, secure and prosperous region, where sovereignty and agreed rules and norms are respected.”
“The first joint patrol between the Australian Defense Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines demonstrates this important commitment,” Marles said.
On X (formerly Twitter), Mr. Marcos also said the joint patrol with Australia “and those that may follow are a practical manifestation of the growing and deepening strategic and defense partnership between our countries.”
Earlier this week, Mr. Marcos announced on X the joint patrol with the United States, which prompted Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, to remark that “the Philippine-US joint patrols must not undermine China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.”
Beijing claims much of the South China Sea, including the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines which China already partly occupies. Under President Marcos’ administration, Chinese incursions into those waters have prompted Manila to firm up its old alliance with Washington.
According to the joint statement, the three-day patrol ending on Monday would involve five surveillance planes of the Philippine Air Force, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Davao Del Sur of the Philippine Navy, the HMAS Toowoomba of the Royal Australian Navy, and a P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force.
‘Plans along the way’
The MCA is being conducted in line with the strategic partnership agreement that President Marcos and Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signed in September. The agreement affirmed that both nations “support the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and reaffirm the 2016 South China Sea arbitral tribunal award as final and legally binding on both parties.”
At a press briefing on Friday, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said there were “plans along the way for [more joint patrols] this year, next year and the succeeding years.
”He also said Japan, South Korea, Canada and “many” other countries have already expressed interest in taking part in that activity.
Regarding reports of a People’s Liberation Army Navy ship shadowing two Filipino vessels and a US ship that sailed together on Thursday morning about 55 kilometers off northern Palawan, Teodoro said such actions from China were “already expected.”
“But we are also thankful that there were no untoward incidents that happened during the whole three days of the [Philippine-US] joint patrol,” he said.
—WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS