PH, US eye joint patrols, maritime drills with ‘like-minded’ nations in South China Sea this year

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 12)— The Philippines and the United States are discussing the possibility of conducting joint patrols and maritime exercises in the South China Sea later this year.

In a joint statement on Wednesday after the 2+2 ministerial meeting in Washington, D.C., both sides said “like-minded” countries may also take part in the maritime exercises.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr., US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III also committed to “finalize plans for the resumption of combined maritime activities, including the conduct of joint sails by the U.S. and Philippine navies, in the South China Sea.”

“Both sides also discussed plans to conduct multilateral maritime activities with other like-minded partners in the South China Sea later this year,” they added.

Manalo also said in a forum on Tuesday that they are exploring the possibility of maritime cooperation with Australia and Japan.

“We are also exploring concrete steps to expand, where appropriate, operational coordination with like-minded partners, such as Japan and Australia,” Manalo said.

Last month, the Philippine government announced that it was crafting guidelines for combined maritime activities in the West Philippine Sea including joint patrols with regional partners. The DFA added that talks are underway on the operational details of these upcoming activities.

However, it remains unclear which countries have expressed interest in the joint patrol talks.

RELATED: Japan says no joint patrol talks yet between PH, US, Australia in South China Sea

In a statement sent to CNN Philippines, the embassy of Japan said that both leaders of Tokyo and Manila agreed in improving defense engagements.

“Both leaders welcomed deepening defense engagements through the participation of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in the Philippines-US joint exercises and committed to further enhancement of defense exchanges through JP-PH-US trilateral dialogues,” it said in a statement.

Japan added that so far, there are no talks yet on the possibility of joint patrols with their allies but that they are ready to cooperate with partners to promote maritime law enforcement in the Indo-Pacific region.