US eyes increased multilateral patrols with PH in South China Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — The United States is planning to conduct more multilateral patrols with the Philippines and other allied countries in the South China Sea to enhance maritime defense.

"We are strongly supportive, not just of a bilateral approach but exploring opportunities for multilateral patrols with the Philippines and to other partners as well," Deputy Assistant Secretary of US Defense for South and Southeast Asia Linsey Ford said in a House hearing on Friday.

Ford also said the US was able to inaugurate a US-Japan-Philippines defense dialogue last year.

"We've been networking the Philippines into many of our alliances much more proactively, it is an essential part of our strategy," she added.

Last month, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the US is ready to conduct and implement the proposed joint patrols with the Philippines and other like-minded nations such as Australia and Japan in the South China Sea.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and US President Joe Biden earlier said in a recent statement that they are looking forward to the trilateral cooperation with other countries, like Australia, to ensure regional security.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs Jung Pak, meanwhile, said the US State Department has been rallying support for the Philippines to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea.

"We've been very focused on making sure that the Philippines have the support of not just the US but also on a global scale," she said.

US Coast Guard Vice Admiral Andrew Tiongson also vowed that they will continue to help the Philippines build maritime capacity and capability to deter and defend its sovereign rights. He said the US Coast Guard is willing to share their tactics and techniques to help the Philippines deal with unlawful incidents in the South China Sea.

The Philippine Coast Guard recently removed a 300-meter-long barrier in the southeast portion of Scarborough Shoal installed by Beijing, but the latter warned the Philippines not to indulge in "provocation" or "stir up trouble."

Philippine authorities stood firm and said the removal was consistent with the government's position on the West Philippine Sea. Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc is located in the middle of the WPS inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.