Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte (left) and President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (Facebook)







Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte is more optimistic than ever on the conduct of joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) between the Philippines and its allies. 

This, as the National Unity Party (NUP) president cited the naval drills of the United States (US) with Japan and Australia in the South China Sea (SCS). 

He expects the Philippines to carry out its jjoint patrols with these three nation, and possibly South Korea. 

“I have high hopes that the shared naval drills by the US, Japan and Australia in the SCS, along with the US’ stronger military cooperation with Japan and South Korea, will be the prelude to the Philippines’ joint maritime patrols with these formidable allies in those parts  of our territorial waters," Villafuerte said. 

He noted that the WPS has been host to "increasingly incursive actions by Chinese vessels, in blatant disregard of international laws on maritime borders, including the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)". 

Villafuerte also welcomed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)’s openness to expanding the planned joint patrols to include our Southeast Asian neighbors, saying “The DFA should set this plan in motion ASAP (as soon as possible).” 

DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo said at a recent budget hearing at the House of Representatives that, “If there are proposals from other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, we would be very open to consider them. In principle, we believe joint coast guard patrols will be useful.” 

Villafuerte said: “As we hopefully undertake a fast-track modernization of our Armed Forces to beef up our external defense in the long term, our most feasible option for the time being to safeguard our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and continental shelf amid the relentless intrusions by Chinese vessels is to conduct, sooner than later, joint maritime patrols in the WPS." 

Reports said the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force would be deploying for the joint naval exercise one of its biggest warships, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo, while the US Navy and the Royal Australian Navy are sending their respective amphibious assault ships USS America and HMAS Canberra. 

Australia’s Defense Minister Richard Marles is also slated to visit the Philippines to observe the separate joint landing and air assault drills of Australian and Filipino defense personnel in the SCS, which will involve the HMAS Canberra and another Australian navy vessel, the HMAS Anzac. 

“Like the Philippines, Australia wants a peaceful, stable and prosperous region which respects sovereignty and which is guided by rules-based order," Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hae Kyong Yu said of the joint training exercises in the SCS. 

As this developed, the heads of the US, Japan, and South Korea condemned in their summit last week at Camp David in Maryland what they called the “dangerous and aggressive behavior” of China in the SCS.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2023/8/23/these-developments-make-villafuerte-more-optimistic-of-joint-patrols-in-west-ph-sea)