MANILA (Reuters) – Joint maritime and air patrols in the South China Sea between the Philippines and the United States military were launched on Tuesday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said, describing it as a “significant initiative”.
The Philippine leader’s announcement comes amid a rapid strengthening of ties this year between the two defence treaty allies, including a decision to almost double the number of Philippine bases accessible to the U.S. military.
“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.
The announcement comes a day after Marcos told a forum in Hawaii the situation in the South China Sea had become more “dire than it was before”, saying the Chinese military have inched closer to Philippine coastline.
China claims most of the South China Sea through a “nine-dash line” that stretches as far as 1,500 km (900 miles) south of its mainland, cutting into the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of rival claimants such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Marcos had rekindled Manila’s ties with Washington after its testy relationship with a predecessor who had pivoted closer to China, despite Beijing developing military installations on manmade islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Relations with China have soared, with repeated standoffs between Chinese and Filipino vessels in waters claimed by both countries, prompting heated rhetoric between them and concerns of an escalation.
(Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)