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China warships tail Philippine, US Navy vessels in joint patrol

Two Chinese warships shadowed the second joint maritime patrol of the Philippine Navy and the United States Navy in the West Philippine Sea on Wednesday.

“We follow a certain policy and guidelines. We call this as the rules of engagement, so this is our bible in ensuring that in the event of disruptive and dangerous maneuvers from any other country, we’ll be obliged to follow this one,” said Lieutenant Commander Christopher Calvo, acting commanding officer of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), an Offshore Patrol Vessel.

According to a 24 Oras report by Jun Veneracion, the Alcaraz issued radio challenges to the Chinese ships five times but received no response.

The Chinese warships, identified as the guided missile destroyer Hefei (174) and the frigate Huangshan (570). followed the Alcaraz and her sister ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) and BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602), a landing platform dock, as the Filipino ships sailed in formation for the whole day. The shadowing vessels, however, did not impede the ships as it rendezvoused with the US 7th Fleet for the joint maritime patrol.

For the second edition of the joint maritime patrol within the Philippines's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the PN deployed four vessels while the US Indo-Pacific Command committed a four vessel flotilla composed of an aircraft carrier, a guided missile cruiser and two destroyers.

“The joint exercise wants to ensure seamless integration of capabilities at the same testing our techniques, tactics and procedures to address evolving threats and challenges,” said Calvo

The joint maritime patrols between the two allied navies began in November 21 last year.

In a report from Reuters, Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) chief of staff, General Romeo Brawner said the second such joint military activity this week marked a "significant leap" in Manila's alliance with the US and its interoperability with the American military.

"Our alliance is stronger than ever, sending a message to the world. We are advancing a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of regional challenges," Brawner said.

In a previous joint patrol, Chinese aircraft and ships were also observed shadowing Philippine and US forces in the WPS.

Collaborative effort

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. 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.

Provocations and harassment

In response to the Philippines asserting its sovereignty over its territorial waters, Beijing said it will not turn a blind eye to repeated "provocations and harassment", amid heightened tensions over a spate of run-ins in the South China Sea.

China-state media has accused the Philippines and its US-supported actions as "extremely dangerous" behavior that it claims harms regional peace and stability.—Jiselle Anne Casucian/RF, GMA Integrated News