‘Joint Philippines-US patrol aimed at protecting territory’

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
�Joint Philippines-US patrol aimed at protecting territory�
A Philippine Air Force FA-50 (bottom) and a US B-52H bomber fly over the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone during the joint maritime cooperative activity the other day.
PAF Photo

MANILA, Philippines — A joint Philippine-US air patrol on Monday over the West Philippine Sea – involving a long-range heavy bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons – was aimed at protecting national interests and territory, the military said yesterday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad issued the statement in reaction to China’s accusing the Philippines of stirring trouble in the region.

“This is to enhance both armed forces’ interoperability and enhance the capabilities of our air force (in) performing its mandate of protecting our territory, sovereign rights and national interests,” Trinidad said of the joint operation.

The joint air patrol on Monday involved three Philippine Air Force (PAF) FA-50 fighter jets and a B-52H heavy bomber of the US Indo-Pacific Command.

Trinidad said the joint air patrol was the 3rd iteration of the two nations’ Maritime Cooperative Activity or MCA. The operation began west of Ilocos Sur and ended over the Mindoro Strait.

Trinidad said the MCA demonstrates the commitment of both armed forces to enhancing interoperability and advancing regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.

“It also further strengthens the capability of the AFP to perform its mandate and maintain its presence over the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” Trinidad said.

PAF public affairs office chief Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo also stressed that the MCA was not directed at China or any other country.

“As far as the Philippine Air Force is concerned, our participation in this combined air patrol, which is part of the 3rd iteration of the MCA between AFP and USINDOPACOM, is part of our commitment to enhance operational jointness and interoperability with our allies while promoting regional security and stability,” she said.

“The MCA is in no way directed towards any country and the activity is in accordance with the international rules-based order, as we were operating within our territory and within the Philippines’ EEZ,” she added.

China said the joint air patrol was another case of provocation by the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Trinidad said the joint operation was the third and that the two nations had just completed three joint sails under MCA.

Earlier this month, the AFP and US forces performed joint air patrol involving an AW109 helicopter from the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and an MH-60S Sea Hawk from USS Gabrielle Giffords. — Alexis Romero, Daphne Galvez, Pia Lee Brago

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