By Cliff Venzon (Bloomberg) The Philippine and US militaries on Wednesday began their second maritime drills in the South China Sea in less than two months amid continuing tensions with China in the disputed waters.
“The two-day bilateral event will conduct passing exercises, communication checks, cross-deck exercises, joint patrols, Officer of the Watch maneuvers, and fixed-wing flight operations,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement.
The activity follows the resumption of joint patrols by the defense allies in late November after they were halted during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. Tensions between China and the Philippines have flared up in recent months, with their vessels facing off in contested wasters.
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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has bolstered defense ties with Washington, and other countries like Japan and Australia, as he pushed back against China’s expansive claims over the waterway.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month warned that relations between Beijing and Manila were facing “serious difficulties” amid increased tensions in the South China Sea.
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The Philippines deployed four Navy vessels, a multi-role helicopter and an anti-submarine warfare capable helicopter, while the US dispatched an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, two destroyers, and multiple combat aircraft during the drills aimed at enhancing their interoperability, according to the statement.
“Our alliance is stronger than ever, sending a message to the world. We are advancing a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of regional challenges,” Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. said.
“The second maritime cooperative activity marks a significant leap in our alliance and interoperability with the United States,” he added.
By Cliff Venzon © 2024 Bloomberg L.P.
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