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Successful Conclusion of Joint Naval Drills in the West Philippine Sea

The recent joint naval exercises in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) involving the Philippines, United States, Japan, and Australia were declared successful by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). These exercises, conducted amidst increasing maritime tensions, marked a significant collaboration aimed at bolstering regional security.

The inaugural Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) saw active participation from all four nations. According to Col. Xerxes Trinidad, AFP Public Affairs chief, the MCA concluded with notable achievements.

The Department of National Defense (DND) emphasized the symbolic unity displayed through this historic MCA, particularly directed towards China, which was anticipated to criticize the exercises. DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong highlighted the Philippines’ commitment to lawful international practices and reiterated the exercise’s focus on enhancing AFP capabilities and fostering interoperability with partner nations.

China’s simultaneous military patrols in the South China Sea (SCS) were juxtaposed against the quad naval drills, with Beijing labeling the latter as provocative actions. Andolong anticipated China’s propaganda efforts against the MCA but reaffirmed the exercise’s lawful nature and its contribution to regional maritime security cooperation.

The MCA encompassed various tactical trainings, including anti-submarine warfare and tactical exercises, aimed at promoting freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. Despite concerns about provoking China, Sen. Francis Tolentino emphasized that such initiatives ultimately serve regional stability and align with China’s interests in maintaining peace.

Sen. Bato dela Rosa echoed similar sentiments, expressing the necessity of asserting rights within the EEZ and leveraging international law, particularly the UNCLOS ruling, to safeguard national interests. He underscored the importance of involving larger nations to bolster the Philippines’ posture in maritime disputes.

The appointment of Assistant Secretary James Layug as the Department of Agriculture’s focal person for the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea highlighted the government’s strategic focus on maritime security. However, concerns were raised by ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro regarding potential militarization in Batanes, citing risks of regional tensions escalating.

In summary, the successful conclusion of the joint naval drills underscores regional cooperation in addressing maritime challenges while navigating complex geopolitical dynamics in the WPS.



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