PH, US forces conduct 3-day joint maritime, air patrols in WPS

MANILA. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
MANILA. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.Photo from PCO

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Indo-Pacific Command started on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, its three-day joint maritime and air patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a statement, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the activity, which is part of the series of events that have been agreed upon by the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) of both nations, aims to enhance the interoperability of both military forces in the conduct of maritime and air patrols.

“This significant initiative is a testament to our commitment to bolster the interoperability of our military forces in conducting maritime and air patrols. Through collaborative efforts, we aim to enhance regional security and foster a seamless partnership with the United States in safeguarding our shared interests,” Marcos said.

The AFP said the joint maritime cooperative activity will be held in the vicinity of Batanes and areas in the WPS.

The MDB-SEB is a framework for security and cooperation that provides equal opportunity for military forces of the Philippines and the US to exchange views on security concerns.

Marcos visited on Monday (Philippine time) the US Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom) Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii where he had a candid exchange with its officials on regional developments and the critical role of the Philippines-US alliance in promoting peace, safeguarding the international law-based order, and ensuring resilient, sustainable, and inclusive growth.

He also discussed issues related to the concerns in the West Philippine Sea, which is being claimed by China.

China has been persistently displaying aggression in the WPS, harassing Philippines vessels entering the area.

Marcos also revealed after his visit to US Indopacom that the situation in the South China Sea “has become more dire” as China expands its presence in the area.

He said reclamation of China has come closer and closer with its latest construction in around 60 nautical miles from the country’s shore.

The President maintained, though, that the Philippines will not give up even an inch of its territory in the WPS.

Marcos said the Philippines is also negotiating with Southeast Asian countries with which the Philippines has a territorial dispute over the WPS for the crafting of a separate code of conduct.

“We are now in the midst of negotiating our own code of conduct, for example, with Vietnam because we are still waiting for the code of conduct between China and Asean and the progress has been rather slow unfortunately and so we’ve taken the initiative to approach those other countries around Asean with whom we have existing territorial conflicts,” he said.

“And to make our own code of conduct and hopefully this will grow further in the extent — into the other Asean countries and at the very least we have that basis between — not only in the multilateral sphere as in Asean or APEC, all of these other organizations but also bilaterally with the different countries around Asean whom we have conflicts with, but with whom, I think, we can find a way to maintain the status quo,” Marcos added. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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