Joint patrols with US in WPS can be explored — DFA chief Manalo


Joint patrols between the Philippines and the United States in the West Philippine Sea can be explored, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Saturday amid continuing aggressive actions by China in the resource-rich waters.

Manalo said the patrols “can take place under the ambit of the Mutual Defense Treaty."

The MDT, a 1951 defense pact signed between Manila and Washington, binds the two allies to come to each other’s aid from aggression and help defend the other party.

“I think that this is an issue which we can continue to explore bilaterally,” Manalo said at a virtual joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The issue of joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea can also be tackled within the context of the Philippines-US mutual defense board and the security engagement board, Manalo added.

Blinken, the highest American official to visit the Philippines since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed the presidency, reaffirmed the US’ commitment to defend the Philippines against any armed attack in the South China Sea as he praised stronger defense and security cooperation with Manila.

“I reiterated our iron-clad commitment to the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and reaffirmed that an armed attack on the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea will invoke US mutual defense commitments under that treaty,” Blinken said.


The Philippines has lodged a series of protests against provocative Chinese actions in the West Philippine Sea, where China on several occasions blocked Filipino resupply missions and sent around 200 militia vessels last year to swarm a reef within the country's waters.

Before stepping down as Secretary of Foreign Affairs of President Benigno Aquino III in 2016, Albert Del Rosario said he met twice in Washington, D.C. with then Deputy Secretary of State Blinken to specifically seek joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea to be undertaken by the Philippines and the US.

“An agreement on joint patrols with the US was approved but this was shelved by the administration of President Duterte, fearing that China would be displeased,” Del Rosario said in a statement in April 2021.

With Blinken as US Secretary of State under the Biden administration, Del Rosario said “it may now be imperative for us to revisit joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea with our sole treaty ally, to confront the bullying tactics of China in the West Philippine Sea.”

China and five other governments—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan—have been locked in long-simmering territorial rifts in the South China Sea that analysts fear could be Asia’s next potential flashpoint for a major armed conflict.

Despite an international tribunal ruling, which invalidated China's claim in 2016, Beijing insists on historic rights over nearly the entire area, which is dotted by clusters of islands, cays, shoals, and reefs with rich fishing areas and natural oil and gas.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, delivered a sweeping victory to the Philippines in the case it filed against China in 2013 and declared China's claim over nearly the entire South China Sea illegal.

It also ruled that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos, who were blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the disputed Scarborough Shoal off the northwest Philippines. — VBL, GMA News