Building the WESTPAC Team we Need
keep up the momentum
There are good things, smart things, happening in The Philippines;
"Meetings have already been set and probably we may have the Japanese and the Australians join in," Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez told Reuters.
"They would like to join in for joint patrols to make sure that there's the code of conduct and there's freedom of navigation," adding it was still "an idea under discussion".
If the plan materializes, it will be the first time the Philippines has joined multilateral maritime patrols in the South China Sea, a move that would likely anger Beijing, which claims most of the sea as its territory.
The United States - quietly and with a deft hand - needs to do whatever it takes to facilitate this taking place.
The patrol talks and renewed engagement with the United States underscore how much Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has realigned his country with its historic ally, moving away from predecessor Rodrigo Duterte's hostile approach to Washington while still pursuing close economic engagement with regional powerhouse China.
The United States, Japan and Australia have been conducting trilateral naval exercises, and joint patrols with those countries would be "good for the Philippines and for the entire area", Romualdez said, adding: "We want to have freedom of navigation."
'These are our allies'
The patrols "could be initially country-to-country" and expanded eventually "because these are our allies, like-minded countries", he said.
If we could find some way to have a PASSEX with the Vietnamese Navy while we were at it ... perfect ... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Early this month, Marcos granted the United States greater access to Philippine military bases by adding four more sites, on top of five existing locations, under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, an agreement predecessor Duterte had threatened to scrap.
EDCA allows US access to Philippine bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing, but not a permanent presence.
Romualdez, who was also ambassador under Duterte, said recent developments showed "the relationship between the United States and the Philippines today is definitely at its best"
Step by step. Layer by layer. That is how you build strong, lasting, and mutually beneficial security partnerships.