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PH-US joint patrols in West Philippine Sea seen before end of 2023

Joint patrol operations in the West Philippine Sea are expected to proceed before the end of the year, an official of the National Security Council said on Friday.

According to JP Soriano's report on "24 Oras," NSC assistant director general Jonathan Malaya said there were "logistical issues" still being addressed.

"May mga ina-iron out pang mga issues but I don’t think these are insurmountable,” Malaya said.

Asked how soon the joint patrols might push through, Malaya said, “ I would think before the end of the year.”

At a national summit, government officials cited the importance of the West Philippine Sea and the benefits that may be derived from the resource-rich waters.

An official of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources adverted to finding in the West Philippine Sea "a new Malampaya."

“We would like to push for the creation of the West Philippine Sea authority,” said BFAR Fisheries Resource Management Division Chief Noemi Lanzuela.

“Accelerate the exploration, development and, utilization of energy resources in the wps to attain energy security of the country in the context of achieving carbon neutrality. Example of this, is we would like to have a new Malampaya,” she added.

The Malampaya gas field is the biggest commercial gas discovery in the country.

Natural gas from Malampaya is being used as fuel in power plants.

"Clearly the future of the Philippines is in the West Philippines Sea," Malaya said in a speech at the national summit.

“Hindi naman po natin pinu-pursue itong West Philippine Sea para maging siga lang tayo, para matalo natin ang China sa arbitral ruling," he added.

"We are doing this because we want the Philippines and the Filipino people to benefit from the West Philippines Sea,” Malaya said.

Meanwhile, ally countries and institutions signed the commitment of solidarity wall during the national summit as they pledged to respect and rally for the Philippines’ rights in the WPS. 

Continuing talks on joint patrols

In May, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez said that joint patrols between Manila and Washington in the West Philippine Sea could begin in the third quarter of this year.

"We're already at a... I would call continuing discussions on this joint patrol with the United States. I could guess, an estimate would be no later than the third quarter of this year. We should have that in place," Romualdez said.

To recall, the Philippines and the United States decided to expand cooperation on maritime security through but not limited to joint patrols.

In a fact sheet released by the White House, it was stated that under deepening interoperability, the goal is to expand cooperation on maritime security and maritime domain awareness, including through the continued conduct of combined maritime activities, including but not limited to joint patrol.

In March, the Philippine government said it is in the process of "crafting guidelines" on maritime activities, including joint patrols with allies. 

In late July, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Romeo Brawner said China offered to hold joint military exercises with the Philippines.

Brawner will study the offer which was presented to him by China's ambassador to Manila, he said on the sidelines of an event hosted by Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to mark the anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"They said they submitted some white papers, so we will have to study," Brawner told reporters, adding that his discussion with Chinese officials on the matter at the event was "informal." —Sundy Locus/NB, GMA Integrated News