By Priam Nepomuceno

AIR PATROL. A Philippine Air Force FA-50 (bottom) and US B-52Hs bomber aircraft fly over the Philippine exclusive economic zone during a joint maritime cooperative activity on Monday (Feb. 19, 2024). The air patrol covered areas 90 nautical miles west of Candon, Ilocos Sur, and 50 nautical miles northwest of Lubang, Mindoro. (Photo courtesy of PAF)

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Tuesday said its combined air patrol with the the US Pacific Air Force over portions of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is not directed at any country and aimed only at improving interoperability between the two services.

“As pronounced by HQS AFP (Headquarters Armed Forces of the Philippines) the MCA (maritime cooperative activity) 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,” PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a message to reporters.

The reaction was issued following China’s statement that the Philippines “stirred up trouble” in the South China Sea through its joint air patrol with the US.

Monday’s combined air patrol covered areas 90 nautical miles west of Candon, Ilocos Sur and 50 nautical miles northwest of Lubang, Occidental Mindoro.

Three PAF FA-50s accompanied one B-52H bomber aircraft of the US Pacific Air Force from the west of Ilocos Sur until Mindoro Strait.

The air patrol is part of the third iteration of the US-Philippines MCA that began Feb. 9.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said the air component of the activity “demonstrates the commitment of both Armed Forces to enhancing interoperability and advancing regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific”.

He added that the activity also beefs up the capability of the AFP to perform its mandate and maintain its presence over the Philippines’ EEZ. (PNA)