MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. on Monday raised the possibility of multilateral patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) together with the country's other allies next year.
This is aside from the bilateral joint exercises and operations the AFP is conducting with other allies, he added.
"There are also some countries expressing their desire to conduct this joint maritime and air patrols not just bilaterally but multilaterally, and right now there is no specific plan yet for that, but we are continuously talking with our allies and partners so this is a possibility probably by next year," Brawner said at the sidelines of the "Talakayang Mabini 2023" held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
"It's not as easy as just sailing together or patrolling together, we have to really make sure that everything is in order so that there is safety. Safety is our primordial concern here," the AFP chief noted.
No exact number as to how many times the multilateral patrol would take place but Brawner stressed that it would be done more in the future.
Possible participants will be the United States and Australia as the Philippines have already conducted similar activities with the two nations last week.
"(This is) a demonstration of a collective effort that is being done by like-minded nations" aimed at emphasizing rules-based international order, Brawner said.
"We are constantly talking to our allies and partners and they are also very much willing to conduct and to continue conducting this joint maritime and air patrols with us in the WPS," he said.
As this developed, Brawner said that the "maritime cooperative activity" (MCA) with Australia that took place on Nov. 25 to 27 off parts of the WPS "was very successful".
While a Chinese ship was spotted shadowing the Philippine and Australian ships, offshore patrol vessel BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15), landing dock BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), and missile frigate HMAS Toowoomba (FFH-152) during the first day, nothing untoward happened.
Two Chinese jet fighters were also spotted circling Philippine aircraft A-29B "Super Tucano" during its maritime air patrol over Hubo Reef, WPS on Sunday.
The AFP chief said this circling lasted for some 15 minutes. The aircraft was able to complete its mission without any untoward incident.
He, however, said there is nothing unusual with this incident as Chinese planes also do the same to US and Japanese military aircraft flying over the South China Sea.
The three-day event featured exercises in the country's exclusive economic zone where Filipino and Australian naval ships participated along with the Philippine Air Force's A29-B and N-22 "Nomad", Philippine Navy's BNI2A aircraft and Royal Australian Air Force's P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft.
"The MCA between the Philippines and Australia demonstrated both countries' shared commitment to improve maritime interoperability, foster camaraderie among the participants and to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law for a peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific," the AFP said. (PNA)