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PH, US, Japan eye more combined naval training and exercises

PH, US, Japan eye more combined naval training and exercises

WASHINGTON DC — The Philippines, United States, and Japan are looking at conducting more combined naval training and exercises together, with Manila set to receive support for its defense modernization priorities.

Based on the Joint Vision Statement from leaders of the three countries uploaded on the Ministry of Japan and the White House websites, they pledged to strengthen their cooperation in efforts to promote domain awareness, along with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

“We resolve to advance trilateral defense cooperation, including through combined naval training and exercises between our three countries and additional partners… and by coordinating US and Japanese support for Philippine defense modernization priorities,” the statement read.

Among the initiatives planned out are combined training with Southeast Asian regional partners, and a Japan-Philippines-US humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise.

The exercise could possibly be integrated into trilateral or multilateral activities, including Balikatan 2025, in a bid to ensure that the countries are prepared and able to work together through any crisis or contingency.

The countries also plan to hold a maritime training activity around Japan in 2025, after they held a multilateral maritime cooperative activity (MMCA) in the West Philippine Sea just last week.

This development came weeks after the China Coast Guard on March 23 water cannoned a Philippine resupply ship en route to the Ayungin Shoal, causing heavy damage and hurting three sailors. The Philippine vessel was on a mission to provide supplies to the decrepit Navy vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre, which has been aground and serves as the Philippines' outpost in the area.

'Serious concerns'

The leaders in the same statement also reiterated their “serious concerns” over China’s “dangerous and aggressive” behavior in the South China Sea, as they cited the 2016 arbitral ruling that states that Ayungin Shoal — a submerged reef among the Spratly Islands — lies within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

“We steadfastly oppose the dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, as well as efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation,” the statement read.

“We reiterated serious concern over the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal,” it added.

China has refused to acknowledge the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling that invalidated its nine-dash line. Its government earlier said it will continue to adhere to what it described as a “friendly consultation” with the Philippines after several Chinese vessels have been found “swarming” areas in the West Philippine Sea. —KBK, GMA Integrated News