By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA – The Philippine government is crafting the guidelines on joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Thursday.
“GPH (Government of the Philippines) is in the process of crafting guidelines for the conduct of combined maritime activities in the WPS, including joint patrols,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza told reporters in a text message.
Daza said operational details and the possibility of including other countries would be discussed in the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board meetings between Manila and Washington DC.
The statement came following an Inquirer report quoting Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu as saying that “conversation on the joint patrols with the US, Philippines and Japan in international waters are ongoing”.
The Japanese Embassy in Manila days before said Tokyo would “explore the possibility of cooperating with partners to reinforce Maritime Domain Awareness and the maritime law enforcement in the Indo-Pacific” but there are no discussions yet on the activity.
The US, Australia and Japan were among the first countries to voice concern over the recent lasing incident in the Ayungin Shoal involving the Chinese Coast Guard and the Philippine Coast Guard.
Amid increasing Chinese activities at the West Philippine Sea, the three separately called for peace and stability, and the respect for international law in the vital waterway.
Last month, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo confirmed that there were “daily incidents” of harassment or land reclamation that had been depriving the Philippines of use of its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. (PNA)