Armed forces from Manila, Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States on Monday began two weeks of joint naval exercises in Philippine waters in a “show of force” amid escalating regional tensions.
With more than 1,800 participants, the drills follow Beijing’s move last week to block Filipino fishermen from Asia’s most contentious maritime draw, the Scarborough Shoal, held by China in the South China Sea.
This year’s “Sama Sama” exercises will be held in the southern part of Luzon island, with naval exercises in areas such as anti-submarine warfare, air defense and search and rescue, the Philippine Navy said.
“With this show of force and the active involvement of our allies and partners, ‘Sama Sama’ transcends mere military exercises,” Philippine Navy Chief Admiral Toribio Adaci said at the opening event.
“It is a symbol of our enduring partnerships and our shared commitment to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”
In his remarks, Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, the commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said: “It is important that all nations have the right to sail and operate in the West Philippine Sea, free from… coercion , free from being intimidated.”
The West Philippine Sea refers to the part of the South China Sea claimed by Manila.
Five ships, two from the United States and one each from Britain, Canada and Japan, took part in the Philippines-organized exercises that will last until October 13.
The navies of Australia, France, Indonesia and New Zealand also participated by sending observers and experts.
“I am convinced that no potential aggressor should harbor any illusion other than that there is a strong team of nations, a strong team of navies… one navy sailing and operating together,” Admiral Karl Thomas added .
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