Joint Filipino-US patrols in South China Sea could begin this year – Envoy Ship’s crew


MANILA, May 8 (Reuters) – Joint patrols between the Philippines and the United States in the South China Sea could begin later this year, a senior diplomat said on Monday, just days after Washington clarified its commitment to protect Manila from an attack protect lake.

Talks on the joint maritime patrols announced in February would continue, said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“An estimate would be no later than the third quarter of this year. We should have that,” he told CNN Philippines.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced in February that he and his Filipino counterpart Carlito Galvez have agreed to resume joint sea patrols in the South China Sea, which former President Rodrigo Duterte, who sought warmer ties with China, suspended after taking office in 2016.

But Philippine Defense Minister Galvez told reporters Monday there were no formal talks on joint patrols with the United States and Australia.

Relations between the Philippines and the United States are enjoying a revival under Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who met President Joe Biden on a four-day visit to Washington last week.

During the visit, the Pentagon issued guidelines that set out in clear terms the extent of US defense treaty obligations to the Philippines that relate specifically to attacks in the South China Sea, including the Coast Guard.

When asked about the timing of the joint patrols, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Manila, Kanishka Gangopadhyay, said Monday, “Our talks on joint maritime activities with the Philippines are ongoing, and our military planners are working hard on specific issues such as logistics”.

Australia could also engage in the combined maritime activities, Romualdez said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $3 trillion of world trade is shipped each year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have competing claims.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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