Naval officers of the United States and the Philippines concluded the joint patrols conducted in the Sulu Sea on Saturday, a day after three Chinese outposts were reportedly deployed over the contested waters of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The culmination of the joint patrols came a day after a US-based think tank reported that three Chinese mobile missile launchers are set to be deployed over contested reefs in the WPS.
China has recently expanded its communications facilities over the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Subi, and Mischief reefs with radar towers built on each.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said that with the construction of the communication towers, Beijing can deploy its military assets to the Spratly Islands any time.
AMTI also said China will “likely” house weapons and ammunition in underground structures constructed in the reefs.
Meanwhile, crew from the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16) concluded the joint patrols meant to “detect and deter threats” to the country’s maritime security.
“These patrols enhance regional peace and stability. Our at-sea operations with the Philippine Navy demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and deter piracy and illegal activities,” Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander of Task Force 73, said.
The US Embassy in Manila said the joint patrols enhanced both navies’ abilities to respond to piracy and transnational criminal activities in the sea.
“It further demonstrates US commitment to the security of the Philippines and enduring US interest in promoting stability and prosperity in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” it said.
“The Philippine sailors also exchanged best practices with their U.S. counterparts in visit, board, search, and seizure techniques and information sharing,” the embassy added.