No Chinese presence during West PH Sea trilateral drills, so far

No Chinese presence during West PH Sea trilateral drills – AFP

/ 02:23 PM April 26, 2024

Philippines, US, France start joint patrols in West PH Sea

FS Vendemiaire, USS Harpers Ferry, and BRP Ramon Alcaraz conduct “division tactics” during the multilateral maritime exercise which kicked Thursday. Photo taken from BRP Davao Del Sur. (PHOTO FROM THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES)

MANILA, Philippines—No Chinese vessel was monitored during the joint exercise of the Philippines, France, and the United States in the West Philippine Sea as part of the biggest annual war games in the country, Balikatan information bureau chief Lt. Col. John Paul Salgado said on Friday.
“So far, we have not monitored any presence; they are sailing smoothly,” Salgado said in a public briefing when asked about the presence of Chinese vessels.

This was despite the recorded surge of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea ahead of the maritime drills.


China expected to ‘behave well’ 

BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Davao del Sur left Puerto Princesa, Palawan on Thursday morning, followed by French frigate Vendémiaire and landing ship dock United States Ship (USS) Harpers Ferry.

On Friday, the fleet continued on conducting “division tactics” focusing on refining strategies and maneuvers to enhance effective force deployment and coordination.

The AFP said in a statement that “this ongoing effort aims to bolster their combat readiness and operational effectiveness.”

Activities include medical evacuation drills, followed by a cross-deck landing with a French Navy FH160 helicopter.

Salgado said the trilateral fleet will perform maritime search and rescue, as well as assemble for communication and photo exercises in the next few days.

Naval activities in the western section of the exclusive economic zone will last until April 29.


Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, previously said that China is expected to “behave well” due to the presence of foreign navies and because they are using military or gray ships.

“Historically the illegal, unprovoked, uncalled for actions of China will only be to [the] Philippines,” he said in a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

Beijing asserts sovereignty in the entire South China Sea, including most of the West Philippine Sea, despite the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling that effectively invalidated its claims based on a case filed by Manila in 2013.

PCG ‘beacon of peace, hope’ to ‘militarized’ WPS

Three Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels are also ready to serve as perimeter guards during the drills.

PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said the presence of white ships there aims to cushion the perceived provocativeness of such maritime activities.

A security expert agreed with Balilo, calling the PCG ships a “beacon of peace and hope” in the West Philippine Sea.

Chester Cabalza, president and founder of the Manila-based think tank International Development and Security Cooperation, also said PCG’s presence “would give balance and humanistic value in the militarized South China Sea.”

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“The white ships are considered the beacon of peace and hope in the contested waters since these are maritime civilian police in nature,” Cabalza told in a text message on Thursday night.

“It banners rules-based norms and law enforcement which shows that their presence is tantamount to vital deescalating  measures in achieving stability in the region,” he added.

For comprehensive coverage, in-depth analysis, and the latest updates on the West Philippine Sea issue, visit our special site here. Stay informed with articles, videos, and expert opinions.

TAGS: West Philippine Sea

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