Joint patrols between the Philippines and the United States in the South China Sea will begin later this year, a top diplomat said Monday, days after Washington made clear its commitment to defend Manila from naval attack.
Talks on joint maritime patrols announced in February continued, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said.
“There will be an assessment after the third quarter of this year. We should be ready for that,” he told CNN Philippines.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in February that he and his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez, had agreed to resume joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea, after former President Rodrigo Duterte, who favored warm ties with China, took office in 2016. .
But Philippine Defense Secretary Galvez told reporters on Monday that there have been no formal talks with the US and Australia about joint patrols.
Relations between the Philippines and the United States are gaining new momentum under Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who met with President Joe Biden during a four-day visit to Washington last week.
During that visit, the Pentagon issued guidelines clearly outlining the extent of US security commitments to the Philippines, including the Coast Guard, in the South China Sea.
Kanishka Gangopadhyay, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Manila, said on Monday of the timing of the joint patrols: “Our talks on joint maritime operations with the Philippines are ongoing, and our military planners are working hard on specifics such as logistics.”
Australia could also participate in joint maritime operations, Romualdez said.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $3 trillion in global trade is transported annually. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Taiwan are competing.
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