Philippine-U.S. Joint Naval Patrols Launch With Small First Step

An LCS operating in the South China Sea. According to the AFP, the patrol will consist of one LCS and three Philippine Navy vessels (USN file image)

Published Nov 21, 2023 8:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy is launching a long-awaited joint patrol with the Philippines in waters just west of the archipelago. The first run will start at small scale, with one lightly-armed American patrol vessel and one aircraft joining Philippine forces for a three-day operation. 

“This significant initiative is a testament to our commitment to bolster the interoperability of our military forces in conducting maritime and air patrols,” said Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who has just returned from talks in Hawaii and California. 

The initiative has been discussed since at least January, when Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said that the arrangements were being made. The first patrol will start in Batanes, at the north end of Luzon, and will end in the "West Philippine Sea," the Philippine portion of the South China Sea, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Just three weeks ago, a much more powerful patrol force - the carrier USS Ronald Reagan and her destroyer escorts - called at Manila for a goodwill visit. Reagan has since returned to her home base at Yokosuka, Japan.

The new joint patrol is a response to heightened tensions between the Philippines and China, including a series of standoffs at Second Thomas Shoal, a flash point in the Spratly Islands. It also follows a long series of confrontational interactions between Chinese PLA Navy fighter jets and U.S. Navy patrol aircraft off the Philippines and Taiwan. 

“I believe they’ve been directed to be more aggressive and they have followed those orders," Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Samuel Paparo told Breaking Defense earlier this month. "They’re operating under the logic of military power . . . to create tense, uncomfortable situations in the hope that US and partner forces will vacate the space that every force has a right to be in."