The Philippines and the United States have initiated a two-week-long joint naval exercise named ‘Samasama,’ which means ‘together’ in Tagalog.
In the face of escalating tensions in the South China Sea due to Beijing’s assertive maritime actions.
The primary objective of these drills is to enhance the Philippines’ naval capabilities and strengthen international cooperation.
Conducted in and around the northern Philippine island of Luzon, the joint naval exercises will run until October 13.
The activities cover a range of modern naval operations, including anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare, aimed at improving readiness to address a broad spectrum of security challenges.
During the opening ceremony, Philippine Navy Chief Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr. emphasized the importance of these exercises in addressing contemporary maritime security concerns.
He underlined the need to strengthen the rules-based international order, which is currently being tested by the actions of a single nation—a veiled reference to China’s expansionist activities in the region.
The joint exercise also involves interoperability drills with naval forces from Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Australia.
Additionally, New Zealand and Indonesia are participating as observers, further emphasizing the multilateral nature of these exercises.
The decision to intensify multilateral cooperation comes when tensions between Manila and Beijing escalate.
In late September, the China Coast Guard established a floating barrier at the Scarborough Shoal, an atoll claimed by the Philippines but under effective Chinese control.
This move was met with strong condemnation from the Philippines, as it impeded its fishing fleet and violated international law.
Philippines Defends South China Sea Claims Amid Rising Tensions
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the removal of the barrier on September 25, asserting that it was placed within Philippine territory.
Marcos emphasized that the Philippines is not seeking conflict but is determined to defend its maritime territory.
China, however, reiterated its claims over the Scarborough Shoal, which it refers to as Huangyan Island, asserting its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.
In another incident, the Philippine Coast Guard reported in September that Chinese militia ships may be causing damage to coral reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Earlier in August, Chinese vessels fired a water cannon at a Philippine resupply vessel. China published a new map claiming significant portions of the South China Sea as its territory.
These developments have led the Philippines to strengthen its outreach to Western governments.
In September, President Marcos met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to affirm increased defense cooperation, and he discussed the South China Sea situation with French President Emmanuel Macron via phone.
These diplomatic efforts signal the Philippines’ commitment to protecting its regional interests while seeking international support for upholding the rules-based order in the South China Sea
Source: Nikei Asia