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Philippines Discusses Joint South China Sea Patrols with Australia

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles met with Philippine counterpart Carlito Galvez in Manila on Wednesday. Marles said they talked about joint maritime patrols in Philippine waters.

Philippine officials have been discussing joint marine patrols with the US and Australia in their waters in the South China Sea.
Philippine officials have been discussing joint marine patrols with the US and Australia, just days after this incident when a green laser was directed at the bridge of Philippine coast guard vessel from a Chinese ship at the Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles off Palawan province. Philippine Coast Guard handout via Reuters.


Officials from the Philippines and Australia had talks on Wednesday about joint patrols in the South China Sea.

The discussions come days after the Southeast Asian country held similar talks with the United States on the need to counter China’s assertiveness in areas that Manila claims in the strategic waterway.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles met with Philippine counterpart Carlito Galvez in Manila, something they said they plan to do yearly to deepen their security ties.

“We did talk today about the possibility of exploring joint patrols and we will continue that work and we hope that comes to fruition soon,” Marles said at a joint news conference.

“As countries which are committed to the global rules-based order, it is natural that we should think about ways in which we can cooperate in this respect.”


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File graphic by AFP

Chinese vessels in Philippine exclusive zone

With some overlapping maritime claims, the Philippines is ramping up its attempts to counter what it describes as China’s “aggressive activities” in the South China Sea, which has also become a flashpoint for Chinese and US tensions around naval operation.

On Tuesday, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) aircraft flew over the South China Sea, as part of efforts to boost its presence in contested waters and protect what it says is its maritime territory.

In a statement, the PCG said it saw a Chinese coast guard vessel and dozens of what it suspected were boats manned by Chinese militia around the Second Thomas and Sabina Shoals, both of which are inside the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The PCG ordered the suspected militia to leave, telling them “they were not authorised to loiter nor swarm these shoals.”

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The possibility of the Philippines and Australia holding joint patrols comes on the heels of similar discussions between Manila and Washington about conducting joint coast guard patrols, including in the South China Sea.

Military ties between Australia and the Philippines date back to 1922 and the two nations have an agreement on visiting forces that provides a legal and operational framework for defence activities.

Galvez on Tuesday had a call with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin where they discussed resumption of combined maritime activities in the South China Sea, according to a Pentagon statement.

They talked about “concerning developments” including a February 6 incident in which China’s coast guard directed a military-grade laser at the crew of a Philippine coast guard vessel around Second Thomas Shoal.

China has said the Philippines’ account did not reflect the truth and that its actions were legal.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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