The Philippine Navy joined top defense ally the United States and
regional powers Japan and India in sailing across disputed areas in the
South China Sea after recent drills in South Korea, officials said
The show of force came as the Philippines remained locked in a
territorial dispute with China, which has sent fishing ships into
maritime territory within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
The six military ships from the four countries sailed from Busan,
South Korea, following the first phase of the ASEAN-Plus Defense
Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-Plus) Maritime Security Field Training Exercise
2019, according to the Philippine Navy. They crossed over to Singapore,
where the second phase of the drills are to be completed.
Navy spokesman Capt. Jonathan Zata said the decision to conduct
maritime exercises occurred during discussions among commanders at the
“This combined transit exercise aimed to deepen the partnership and
foster mutual understanding between participant countries. As with other
naval exercises, this activity is expected to validate the decades of
friendship, partnership and cooperative engagement that has been long
established and observed between the Philippines, US, Japan and India,”
The United States, which has vowed to sail through the region to
show freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, was excited to take
part in the event, said Cmdr. Andrew Klug of the USS William P.
“Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in
the region allow us the opportunity to build upon existing, strong
relationships, as well as to learn from each other,” Klug said.
The trip came after China and the Philippines appeared to
diplomatically settle differences in the region. Manila had warned
Beijing about the presence of its ships in Philippine-claimed territory
around Pag-asa Island.
China claims most of the mineral-rich South China Sea, including
areas that reach the shores of its smaller neighbors. Brunei, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the
During the weeklong transit, the ships “conducted a series of
training exercises and social interactions.” Transiting through the
disputed region was a conduct of “freedom of safe navigation in support
of rules-based international system,” the Philippine Navy said.
Capt. Roy Vincent Trinidad, who is leading the Philippine Navy
delegation, said the sail validated multilateral cooperation among the
“The group sail showed the active participation of the Philippine
Navy as it strengthens its relationships with allies and partners in the
Asia-Pacific region. This gives us another opportunity to learn from
like-minded navies,” Trinidad said.
Last month, about 4,000 Filipino, 50 Australian and 3,500 American
troops participated in Balikatan Exercise 2019, an annual joint military
exercise. The amphibious warship USS Wasp, which has sailed through the
South China Sea, was deployed for the exercise.
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