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Marcos says joint patrols with US underway in West Philippine Sea

Joint maritime and air patrols in the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and the United States military got underway on Tuesday, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said.

In a post on social platform X, Marcos said the patrols are a "collaborative effort between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Indo-Pacific Command" in the area.

"This significant initiative is a testament to our commitment to bolster the interoperability of our military forces in conducting maritime and air patrols," Marcos said on social media platform X.

"These joint patrols are part of a series of events agreed upon by the Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) of both nations. I am confident that this collaboration will contribute to a more secure and stable environment for our people," he added.

The patrols will continue through November 23, Marcos said.

The joint maritime and air patrols would start in the area off the Batanes islands and head west to the South China Sea, according to a Philippine military statement.

It said the Philippines would deploy three navy vessels, two FA-50 light combat aircraft and a A-29B Super Tucano light attack plane, while and the United States would mobilize a littoral combat ship and a P9-A maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

Working visit

Marcos had just returned from a working visit to the US, where he became the first Philippine president to visit the US Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii. 

Last May, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez said that joint patrols undertaken by 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 states 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 August, the National Security Council said the joint patrol operations in the WPS are expected to proceed before the end of the year.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the Manila-based Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the joint patrol with the United States showed the Manila was making a stand over the South China Sea.

"It shows that the Philippines is really firming up its posture on West Philippine Sea issues," he said, referring to the Philippine EEZ.

"I guess it shows the determination of the current administration of pursuing its more robust policy with respect to the West Philippine Sea." — Reuters with Sundy Locus/RF/RSJ, GMA Integrated News