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Philippine Coast Guard to join military drills with United States

China planes, ships detected around Taiwan as US destroyer passes Strait
Source: Pixabay

The Philippine Coast Guard said Thursday it will participate for the first time in an annual joint military exercise conducted by the Southeast Asian country and the United States.

More than 16,700 Filipino and American troops will take part in this year’s drills, which kick off Monday.

The exercises will be focused in the northern and western parts of the archipelago nation — near the potential flashpoints of the South China Sea and Taiwan.

Beijing claims almost the entire waterway and considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory.

Other countries, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims to parts of the sea. The United States has no territorial claim over the waters or features, but regularly conducts patrols there.

The United States has been deepening its defence cooperation with regional allies, including the Philippines, as it seeks to counter China’s growing assertiveness.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said Thursday it would be the first time Philippine Coast Guard vessels join the drills dubbed Balikatan, which means “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog.

Previously, PCG boats had patrolled the waters around the exercises to prevent interlopers.

Six vessels would participate, Balilo said, including four 44-metre multi-role response boats and two larger patrol vessels.

The coast guard’s special operations force would also “undertake joint interoperability exercises” with the Philippine Navy and their counterparts from Australia, France and the United States.

The Philippine Coast Guard, which patrols the country’s exclusive economic zone and carries out supply missions to remote outposts in the South China Sea, has accused China’s coast guard and other boats of shadowing and blocking its vessels.

There have been several minor collisions between Philippine and Chinese coast guard vessels in recent months, raising fears of a wider conflict that could involve the United States and other allies.

There have also been multiple incidents involving the China Coast Guard water-cannoning Philippine vessels, at times injuring Filipino crew members.

The Balikatan drills will involve a simulation of an armed recapture of an island off the western province of Palawan, near the South China Sea, and the sinking of a vessel off the northern province of Ilocos Norte, several hundred kilometres from Taiwan.

For the first time, the drills will go beyond the Philippines’ territorial waters, which extend about 22 kilometres from its coastline, Philippine Colonel Michael Logico told reporters on Wednesday.

The United States Coast Guard will also take part in the exercise.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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