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PH, Australia, Japan, US hold WPS maritime cooperative activity

Defense forces of the Philippines, Australia, Japan, and the United States on Sunday conducted the first Multilateral Maritime Cooperative Activity (MMCA) in the West Philippine Sea, in line with their commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the MMCA was joined by the Australian Defense Force (ADF), the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), and the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

The naval and air forces of the four countries conducted communication exercises and division tactics.

Activity participants included the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar with an AW109 helicopter, BRP Antonio Luna with an AW159 Wildcat ASW helicopter, and BRP Valentin Diaz from the Philippine Navy.

Also included were the USS Mobile and a P-8A Poseidon from the United States Navy, the Royal Australian Navy HMAS Warramunga and Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and the JS Akebono from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces.

“The MMCA demonstrated the participating countries’ commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific through interoperability exercises in the maritime domain. It will also contribute greatly to the AFP's capability development,” the AFP said.

“These activities were designed to enhance the different forces’ abilities to work together effectively in maritime scenarios,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the activity was a “show of unity” among the four countries, and was something that was also undertaken by nations all over the world. 

“We're just practicing what is allowed under international law," said DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong. "If they (China) consider it as a show of force, that is up to them.”

Nevertheless, the DND still expected China to “malign” the exercise.

As the MMCA took place, China also conducted military "combat patrols" in the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command said it was organizing "joint naval and air combat patrols in the South China Sea."

"All military activities that mess up the situation in the South China Sea and create hotspots are under control,"  it said in a statement, in an apparent swipe at the other drills being held in the waters.

Further details about the Chinese military activities in the waterway Sunday were not announced.

Just last week President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the Philippines wanted to maintain peace in the West Philippine Sea, but it needed to respond to what was happening in the area.

The MMCA also came ahead of a trilateral meeting in Washington next week, which Marcos will attend together with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. — DVM, GMA Integrated News