Philippines to hold naval exercises with US, Japan

Amid ongoing ferment in the South China Sea marked by China’s assertive posturing, the Philippines is set to hold simultaneous naval drills next week with its close allies, the United States and Japan.

The Philippines will hold the two exercises separately, and both will be organised near the disputed waters. With the US, the exercise will include a P3-Orion spy plane flight and a helicopter crash and rescue stimulation. Its exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, only the second ever, will take place separately but in the same week, in which Japan would also field a P3 surveillance aircraft. Last month, the Philippines had held naval drill with Japan on the South China Sea, less than 300 kilometers (186 miles) from a Philippine-claimed shoal now under Chinese control.

The Philippine Navy spokesman Commander Lued Lincuna said, “The joint training will help capacitate and familiarize our troops with modern equipment. There will be sharing of information, techniques and best practices on the tactical level.”

“They are regularly planned and scheduled exercises. With Japan, the focus is on search and rescue and disaster relief,” Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

The US and the Philippines, long-time allies, have been bound by a 64-year-old mutual defense treaty and a separate visiting forces agreement. In addition, the two countries signed an agreement last year to rotate more troops in Philippine military bases.

Earlier this month, the Philippines’ President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to negotiate for the transfer of defense equipment, including anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology.

Meanwhile, China has said it would soon complete land reclamation on some islands and reefs in disputed waters in the South China Sea. And it would then begin to build facilities on the artificial islands to perform several tasks – including military defence.

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