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Philippines, US hold another joint activity in West Philippine Sea

Michael Punongbayan, Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Philippines, US hold another joint activity in West Philippine Sea
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced a successful third Philippine-US Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) in Philippine territorial waters, involving the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar and US Navy’s USS Gabrielle Giffords. Gregorio del Pilar’s AW109 helicopter and Gabrielle Giffords’ MH-60S Sea Hawk were involved in the activity featuring advanced planning and maritime communication operations within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Armed Forces of the Philippines / Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — Naval forces of the Philippines and the United States Indo-Pacific Command completed another joint activity in the West Philippine Sea yesterday, in what officials stressed was a show of commitment of both nations to boost regional security and stability.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced a successful third Philippine-US Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) in Philippine territorial waters, involving the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar and US Navy’s USS Gabrielle Giffords. Gregorio del Pilar’s AW109 helicopter and Gabrielle Giffords’ MH-60S Sea Hawk were involved in the activity featuring advanced planning and maritime communication operations within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The AFP said the MCA, now a routine activity for both Filipino and US militaries, has been effective in enhancing interoperability through the conduct of maritime security and maritime domain awareness operations.

The activity also involved communication exercise, photo exercise and division tactics or Officer of the Watch Maneuver.

“The continuous maritime cooperative activity manifests the enduring partnership between the Philippines and the US militaries,” AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

“It demonstrates our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and fosters closer cooperation towards further enhancing our maritime capabilities,” he said. 

Resupply mission unimpeded

Also in the West Philippine Sea, a resupply mission to Rozul (Iroqouis) Reef early this week proceeded unmolested by Chinese vessels, enabling 16 Filipino fishing boats to receive delivery of food, fuel and other provisions, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported yesterday.

According to BFAR, supply ship BRP Datu Sanday carried out its mission at 2:50 a.m. on Feb. 5 in waters usually crowded with Chinese coast guard and militia vessels.

“No Chinese vessels were observed around said area during the mission. On previous occasions, an average of around 30 Chinese vessels, including maritime militia vessels, were monitored around Iroqouis Reef,” BFAR said. The aircraft supporting Datu Sanday’s supply operation did not receive radio challenge from the Chinese.

“The resupply effort included distributing a total of 13 tons of diesel, along with gasoline for fishermen’s pump boats, medicines, drinking water, and ready-to-eat snacks,” BFAR added.

When Datu Sanday launched its mission, there were eight mother fishing boats in the area carrying some12 tons in fish catch, BFAR added.

The AFP Western Command (WESCOM) earlier reported the plunder of corals in Rozul Reef near Palawan, possibly by the Chinese.

WESCOM said that massive poaching of corals left a trail of destruction of marine resources in the area, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone or EEZ.

The Chinese may have begun clearing the reef of its corals in July when their ships swarmed around the land feature, which is about 150 nautical miles from the Palawan mainland.

When the Chinese ships left Rozul Reef for Panganiban (Mischief) Reef weeks later, the AFP deployed navy divers to conduct an underwater survey.

Experts from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) will conduct an assessment of the extent of damage to coral reefs in Rozul Reef.  

In his Chinese New Year message, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro appealed for respect for international law and the recognition of Philippine sovereignty.

While it was not clear to whom his message was intended, Teodoro was apparently referring to China, which has taken control of several land features in waters within the Philippines’ EEZ.

“May we seize this year of innovation and technology to create a nation of stability and prosperity under a regime of respect for international law and the sanctity of our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

Teodoro has been very vocal against China’s growing aggressiveness in asserting its illegal claims in the West Philippine Sea.

His message also carried a specific reference to Filipino-Chinese whom he called “Chinoys,” wishing them peace and prosperity in this year of “growth, progress, and good fortune.”

Meanwhile, Japan – through its embassy’s deputy chief of mission – has reaffirmed its commitment to promoting rule of law, maritime freedom, and environmental protection in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the South China Sea (SCS).

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WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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