US, PH conduct 3rd joint patrol in West PH Sea
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United States conducted their third joint patrol in the West Philippines Sea on Friday afternoon, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Joining the joint maritime cooperative activity (MCA) were Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and AW109 Helicopter, together with the United States Indo-Pacific Command’s USS Gabrielle Giffords embarked with an MH-60S SeaHawk helicopter.
The two ships sailed together and participated in advanced planning and maritime communication operations within the western section of Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
“The MCA has become a routine activity for both Filipino and U.S. militaries to continuously enhance interoperability through the conduct of maritime security and maritime domain awareness operations,” the AFP said in a statement.
The second MCA of Manila and Washington was conducted last month, while the first-ever joint patrol was held in November 2023.
These patrols were formed amid tensions between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.
The regular rotation and resupply (Rore) mission of the country to the BRP Sierra Madre — a Navy ship grounded in Ayungin Shoal since 1999 — became the flashpoint of tension between Manila and Beijing.
In 2023 alone, the China Coast Guard (CCG) resorted to the usage of military-grade lasers once and water cannon at least four times against Philippine vessels doing resupply missions to the Navy outpost.
The CCG also routinely blocked and conducted what the Philippine government deemed to be “dangerous maneuvers” against its vessels.
Several incidents between Filipino vessels and CCG have also occurred in Scarborough Shoal.
Beijing’s actions are based on its assertion of sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea, including most of the WPS, but an international tribunal ruling in 2016 effectively dismissed this while ruling heavily in favor of Manila.