On Nov. 21, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, began joint maritime and aerial patrols in the South China Sea.
The joint patrols aim to “enhance regional security and foster a seamless partnership with the United States in safeguarding our shared interests,” Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said.
The patrols were agreed upon by both nations through existing security frameworks.
“I am confident that this collaboration will contribute to a more secure and stable environment for our people, “Marcos said.
Patrols will conclude Thursday, according to a Philippine government press release.
The joint patrols are to be conducted on the sea and in the air in the West Philippine Sea, an area of the South China Sea that includes the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. However, China claims the area as its own, with recent maps showing a 10-dash line covering the entire South China Sea, as well as Taiwan. Aside from constructing artificial islands with military installations on them, Beijing has also repeatedly harassed Philippine fishermen and swarmed the area with its maritime militia. Within the last year, several provocative incidents have occurred between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.
Marcos announced the commencement of the long-awaited joint patrols following his third visit to the United States, which included a trip to INDOPACOM headquarters in Hawaii for a meeting on defense and security cooperation with the combatant command’s chief Adm. John Aquilino.
Last year, the idea of joint patrols was brought up during U.S.-Philippine navy-to-navy talks using Maritime Security Framework Bantay Dagat.
In light of this year’s actions against the Philippines, American air and naval forces have been more visible in support of Washington’s oldest treaty ally in the Indo-Pacific in its stance against coercion from China. U.S. Navy and Army aircraft were seen overflying resupply missions to Manila’s outpost onboard BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57) at Second Thomas Shoal, which has seen numerous incidents of Chinese vessels harassing Philippine vessels.
U.S. Navy destroyers have also drilled in the SCS with the Philippine Navy. In Sept., USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) and Philippine flagship BRP Jose Rizal (FF 150) held a joint sail. USS Dewey (DDG 105) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS 15) held another joint sail in Oct.
As a result has resulted in many countries increasing their defense cooperation with and diplomatic support to the Southeast Asian nation. Australia committed to conducting joint patrols with the Philippines over the summer, Japan recently granted provisions for coastal surveillance radars and patrol vessels, and India has revised its stance on the 2016 UNCLOS ruling while also offering Manila more defense equipment.