PH, US begin 3-day joint patrols in West PH Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — The Philippines and the United States launched on Tuesday their joint maritime and air patrols in the West Philippine Sea as part of a series of activities to boost defense ties and maintain peace in the disputed area.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Indo-Pacific Command will conduct the exercises from Nov. 21 to 23, as agreed by the two nations’ Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board.

“This significant initiative is a testament to our commitment to bolster the interoperability of our military forces in conducting maritime and air patrols,” Marcos wrote in a statement.

“I am confident that this collaboration will contribute to a more secure and stable environment for our people,” he added.

The AFP said the activity will start in the vicinity of Batanes — at the northern tip of the country close to Taiwan — and end in the West Philippine Sea.

China earlier warned Manila against “stoking the fire” of regional tensions after the latter announced expanded US military access in the Philippines.

Beijing claimed this new deal between Manila and Washington could be used to “interfere” in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions have grown as Beijing insists that the self-ruled island nation is part of its territory.

Manila will deploy three navy vessels, two FA-50PH and one A-29B Super Tucano, while Washington will send one littoral combat ship and one P8-A.

Marcos said the two defense allies have launched such efforts to safeguard shared interests, although the government has earlier maintained there is no country being targeted by the joint patrols. Philippine officials have repeatedly said the basic purpose is to enhance the country’s defense capabilities and help ensure stability in the region.

The development came a day after Marcos said during a forum in Hawaii that China's military bases in the disputed waters have come "closer and closer" to the Philippine coastline.

Beijing, meanwhile, maintained it was only “carrying out construction activities on its own territory.”

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