Philippines warship in quadrilateral drill in South China Sea

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star
Philippines warship in quadrilateral drill in South China Sea
Photo provided by the Philippine Navy shows the BRP Andres Bonifacio along with US, Japan and India warships heading to Singapore during a naval drill in the West Philippine Sea. The drill is a continuation of the just-concluded South Korea maritime exercises in the waters off Busan.

MANILA, Philippines —  A Philippine Navy (PN) patrol ship and five other warships from Japan, India and the US are currently conducting a quadrilateral cooperative naval drill in the South China Sea.

PN spokesman Capt. Jonathan Zata yesterday said the naval exercise now underway in international waters is not directed towards any country in the disputed region.

“It’s being held in international waters of the West Philippine Sea. We’re not trying to pick on one country but we are just highlighting the fact that we are cooperating with other navies,” Zata said.

Zata added the naval flotilla is headed to Singapore for the second phase of ASEAN-Plus Defense Ministers’ Meeting Maritime Security Field Training Exercise scheduled to open on Monday. The first phase of the drill was held in the waters of Busan, South Korea.

The PN’s patrol ship, BRP Andres Bonifacio, is currently engaging the vessels of Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) JS Izumo and JS Murasame; Indian warships INS Kolkata and Shakit and the US warship USS William P. Lawrence in various types of naval formation exercises.

The naval exercises, also known as “Formex,” are being executed to address various types of threats from the air, surface and sub-surface via established terminologies, publication and communication protocols.

“That’s what they’re practicing while headed for Singapore for the next phase of the exercise,” Zata said.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the US State Department said Washington will continue to protect its interests as well as that of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region amid China’s predatory and aggressive action, specifically in the South China Sea.

Ambassador David Hale, undersecretary for political affairs of the US Department of State, said that while the US government wants a constructive relationship with China, it wants one that produces results for its people and for others involved.

“We’re going to be actively defending American interests and values and those of our allies. That is in the area of trade, religious freedom, human rights and predatory and aggressive action in the South China Sea and even further afield,” Hale said in a teleconference with local and foreign journalists during his recent visit to Burma.

Hale was responding to a question posed by a Singaporean journalist on US Indo-Pacific strategy, particularly on the US administration’s stepping up its pressure on China.

In the case of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Hale said the US wants to make sure that countries are aware of the strategic risks and it wants these countries to see for themselves whether these initiatives are all that they are touted to be.

“Our own approach is different, in the sense that it’s a fundamentally different approach to economic development and governance, one in which free market and free and fair trade are key elements to this. Market-driven investments rather than state-driven investments,” Hale said.

Before visiting Burma, Hale first traveled to Indonesia and Thailand. From Burma, Hale flew to Japan to wrap up his visit in the region.

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