Philippines: 21 November 2023, In a groundbreaking move to address escalating tensions in the South China Sea, the Philippines and the United States have jointly launched maritime and air patrols. The announcement, made by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., signifies a historic initiative aimed at enhancing the interoperability of their military forces.
This strategic collaboration comes amid a notable strengthening of ties between the Philippines and the United States, with a recent decision to nearly double the number of Philippine bases accessible to the U.S. military. President Marcos Jr. took to the social media platform X to declare the significance of this initiative, emphasizing its role in conducting maritime and air patrols.
Eugene Cabusao of the Northern Luzon command disclosed that the patrols would be concentrated off the island of Mavulis, the northernmost point of the Philippines, strategically located about 100km off Taiwan. President Marcos Jr. expressed concerns about the South China Sea’s deteriorating situation during a forum in Hawaii, highlighting the Chinese military’s increasing proximity to the Philippine coastline.
China’s territorial claims, epitomized by the “nine-dash line,” extend 1,500km south of its mainland, encroaching upon the exclusive economic zones of neighboring countries. President Marcos Jr. has rekindled Manila’s ties with the United States, diverging from the pivot towards China by a predecessor. Despite China’s development of military installations within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, the Philippines is taking a decisive stand to align with the United States.
Relations with China have soured under President Marcos Jr., leading to repeated standoffs between Chinese and Filipino vessels in disputed waters. These incidents have fueled concerns of potential escalation, sparking heated rhetoric between the nations.
The joint maritime and air patrols are slated to commence off the Batanes islands, extending west into the South China Sea. The Philippines will deploy three navy vessels, two FA-50 light combat aircraft, and an A-29B Super Tucano light attack plane. Concurrently, the United States will mobilize a littoral combat ship and a P9-A maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea in Manila, sees this joint effort as a testament to the Philippines’ firm stance on South China Sea issues. “It shows that the Philippines is really firming up its posture on West Philippine Sea issues,” he commented, underscoring the significance of protecting the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
This collaborative endeavor not only bolsters the Philippines’ defense capabilities but also serves as a resolute statement affirming the nation’s commitment to stability and security in the South China Sea.