The Philippines and the United States have agreed to finalize their plans of conducting joint naval sails in the waters encompassing the Indo-Pacific region, the Department of National Defense (DND) bared Saturday, April 29.
(President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. witnesses the sinking exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States Armed Forces where troops try to sink BRP Pangasinan by firing a variety of weapons as part of Exercise Balikatan 2023 in San Antonio, Zambales on April 26, 2023. File photo via Manila Bulletin)
It was DND Officer in Charge (OIC) Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. who pitched to Admiral John Aquilino, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), the finalization of the two countries’ plans to hold joint naval sails during the culmination of Exercise Balikatan 2023.
“Galvez suggested the finalization of joint sails by the Philippine and US navies, as well as Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations at the soonest possible time,” said DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.
In response, Andolong stated that Aquilino expressed the US INDOPACOM’s readiness to conduct such “cooperative deployments” to “protect the global commons, freedom of navigation, and maintain a free, open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
“Both parties agreed to embark on the mechanisms to pave the way for strengthening our two countries’ collective defense and alliance in the near future,” Andolong stressed.
The latest endeavor to iron out the details of the joint naval sails between the Philippines and US came after the final day of the 38th iteration of Balikatan on Friday, April 28. The war games involved 17,600 troops from the two countries, making it the biggest iteration of the activity in almost four decades.
There were also 100 active participants from Australia as well as military contingents from observer-nations including Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, India, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
For Galvez, the increased security cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Armed Forces, as well as the sustained implementation of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Security Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), will further hone the interoperability of the Filipino and American troops.
“This will not only enable the AFP to protect and defend Philippine territory, sovereign rights and sovereignty, but also enable it to contribute significantly to peace and stability in the region and fulfill its obligations as a responsible member of the international community,” he noted.
Last month, the DND and the US Department of Defense (DoD) had revealed their intention to conduct joint patrols in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea (WPS) where the Philippines and China have overlapping territorial claims.
The plan was raised again during the third US-Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington, D.C. last April 11.
At the ministerial dialogue, Galvez, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Sec. Enrique Manalo vowed to finalize plans for the conduct of combined maritime activities, including joint sails by the Philippine Navy and US Navy, in the South China Sea.
Source : MB