By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. on Sunday said joint patrols with Australia on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) are now in the offing.
In an interview with DZRH, Brawner said the planning on the measure is ongoing after this has been approved by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and the Australian government.
“Pinaplano pa rin ho natin yung mga detalye pero in essence ay naaprove na po ng ating Pangulo at ng liderato ng Australia, this is to ensure na we maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, kasama po tayo dyan dahil isinisulong po natin yung rules-based international order (We are now planning but in essence the President and the Australian leadership have already approved it, and this will be done to so that we can maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, this is part of our efforts to promote rules-based international order),” he added.
In a joint statement on the sidelines of the Philippines and Australia’s amphibious assault drills on Aug. 25, part of the ongoing “Exercise Alon”, Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Australia Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles said they have “discussed the importance of all countries in the region exercising their agency in support of an Indo-Pacific region that is based on sovereignty, international law, and ASEAN Centrality.”
“Under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program, we are working to broaden the scope of our cooperation and the complexity of our activities,” the joint statement said, adding that this intent is epitomized by the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023.
“We agreed on the importance of all states operating safely and professionally, while respecting and adhering to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and we reaffirmed our strong support of the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award,” the statement further read.
In line with this, the Philippines and Australia have “recommitted to planning bilateral joint patrols in the South China Sea/ West Philippine Sea and other areas of mutual interest.”
Some 1,760 Filipino and Australian troops participated in “Exercise Alon” which will end on Aug. 31.
Participants include 560 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and 1,200 personnel from the Australian Defense Force with 120 supporting personnel coming from the United States Marine Corps.
Participating military assets include the helicopter landing dock, HMAS Canberra, frigate HMAS Anzac, with the landing dock BRP Davao Del Sur. Close-air support was provided by the Royal Australian Air Force F-35A “Lightning II” aircraft; Australian Army M-1A1 “Abrams” tank and two PMC amphibious assault vehicles, with airlift support by Darwin-based USMC MV-22B. (PNA)