The United States reiterated its alliance with the Philippines in protecting its territory and helping to increase its capability to man the West Philippine Sea (WPS) against foreign intrusions.
Heather Variava, US Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, during a turn-over ceremony on Friday afternoon of outboard engines to the PNP Maritime Group at the 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group headquarters in Barangay Santa Lourdes, said the Balikatan Exercise between Filipino and American soldiers will help boost the country’s defense team.
“We continue to support [the] Philippines in expressing and establishing its rights. As we said back in November, any incursion in the South China Sea is covered in the Mutual Defense Treaty, so we constantly coordinate with the Philippines in this regard,” Variava told the reporters.
The statement was made after Variava was sought to comment in the summon issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Chinese Embassy on March 14, after reports of Chinese militia were seen “lingering presence” during the Philippine and US Marines Marine Exercise 2022 (MAREX 22) off Palawan in January 2022.
“It is a significant incursion. We certainly support the right of the Philippine government to clarify its rights and its rules in its territorial waters, and we will continue to work with the Philippines on a range of exercises and activities,” Variava added.
During the ceremonial turn-over ceremony, six of a total of 18 outboard engines were donated to the maritime group in this city that will help in patrolling its waters.
A total of P31.5 million in engines were donated, including 12 that will be turned over to Tawi-Tawi.
The PH-US MAREX 22, was intended to boost the mutual defense capabilities of the two longtime allies. It started on January 27 and ended on February 2.
The US Navy ships that participated were the helicopter carrier USS Essex (LHD-2), amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD-27) and the dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52).
In a previous statement, an estimated 3,800 personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 5,100 soldiers from the United States will train together from March 28 to April 8 in areas across Luzon, the joint information bureau of the PH-US Balikatan 2022 announced on March 22.