PH, Australia to conduct joint patrols in South China Sea soon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) --- The Philippines and Australia will soon hold joint patrols in the hotly contested South China Sea, it was announced by Australia's defense chief.

“We are working closely together, doing joint sails is something that we've been keen to pursue now for some time,” said Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles in a press briefing on Friday.

“And our two defense forces have been working closely together about how to make that happen and to do that in the most effective way,” he also said.

“And we're really pleased with the progress of those discussions, and we expect that the first of those joint patrols will happen in the not too distant future,” Marles added.

Troops from the Philippines, Australia, and some reinforcements from the United States conducted on Friday a combined amphibious assault exercise in Zambales.

The joint activity is part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023 program, where it seeks to strengthen its defense cooperation with 14 countries in a period of four months.

“We want to see a free and open Indo-Pacific and we want to see that operating on the basis of an established rules-based order which exists,” said Marles.

“And in order to see that, countries which want to live by those rules, it's really important that they are standing up and asserting those rules," he added. "And we see that happening through what the Philippines does.”

Aside from the Philippines, other ASEAN member-states such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, also have claims to certain areas of the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will visit Manila on Sept. 8 to discuss with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. how the two nations can strengthen cooperation on defense and maritime security.