Amidst continued heated disputes over the South China Sea, the United States and the Philippines began their joint naval drills on Thursday in near waters near the areas claimed by Beijing.
Week-long exercises – which will involve three US warships and more than a thousand US personnel and approximately 400 Filipino servicemen –are aimed at addressing Manila’s “capability gaps” as well as testing its newest warships; a pair of decommissioned US coastguard cutters that were reconfigured into frigates.
“We committed two of our relatively new ships to participate in this exercise because we really wanted these ships to become proficient in what they do,” fleet commander Jaime Bernardino said in an interview.
“We wanted them to become proficient in firing their guns and all the things they do on the ground.”
He added that the Philippines’ territorial waters are “very porous” to foreign vessels.
“These are the gaps that we would like to address — make sure we detect (foreign vessels) properly, we intercept them and we neutralise them if necessary.”