Australia and the Philippines are now conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea as other Pacific countries monitor China’s growing assertiveness with caution.
The triennial drills come after previous talks this year about collaborative patrols, emphasizing the countries’ dedication to increased collaboration and a structured system in the area.
The action was taken shortly after Manila ended joint patrols with the US, following their initiation in the vicinity of Taiwan.
Australia’s defense minister, Richard Marles, stated that the first patrols demonstrate the tangible execution of the strategic partnership agreed upon by the two countries in September.
On Saturday, in a joint statement with the Philippine national defense secretary Gilberto C Teodoro Jr., it was stated that Australia and the Philippines are dedicated to maintaining a peaceful, secure, and prosperous region where sovereignty and established rules and norms are honored.
The initial collaborative effort at sea between the Australian Defence Force and the Armed Forces of the Philippines highlights their significant dedication to each other.
The spokesperson for the Philippine Department of Defense, Arsenio Andolong, announced that patrols will take place in the West Philippine Sea, which refers to the waters in the South China Sea that are part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The military of the Philippines announced that two of its navy ships and five surveillance planes will take part.
Australia announced that they will be deploying the frigate HMAS Toowoomba and P8-A maritime surveillance aircraft.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the president of the Philippines, praised the exercises for upholding an international order based on rules.
On the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, it was stated that the first Maritime Cooperative Activity and any future ones are a tangible representation of the strengthening and expanding strategic and defense alliance between our nations.
China asserts control over nearly all of the South China Sea, a key route for over $3 trillion in yearly trade via ships. This area also includes territories claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration declared that China’s claims were not supported by legal grounds.
The Philippines is increasing its efforts to address the “aggressive actions” of China in the South China Sea. This has also become a source of tension between China and the US due to their naval operations in the area.
The Chinese government has alleged that the Philippines has sought the help of outside nations to monitor the South China Sea. However, Manila maintains that its actions in the maritime region are justified within its legal rights.
In the beginning of this year, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, promised to elevate the connection between Australia and the Philippines, following the signing of stronger defense and security agreements between the two countries.