maritime security

PH, US, Japan coast guards to hold exercises, patrol in Indo-Pacific 

Bea Cupin

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PH, US, Japan coast guards to hold exercises, patrol in Indo-Pacific 

Philippine Coast Guard's BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702) and Japan Coast Guard's Akitsushima (PLH-32) participate in drills to improve search and rescue collaboration and enforcement during the first trilateral coast guard exercise between the Philippines, Japan, and the US, at the coast of Bataan on June 6, 2023.


After the historic trilateral summit, President Biden, President Marcos, and Prime Minister Kishida announce the creation of a 'trilateral maritime dialogue' between their countries

MANILA, Philippines – The White House on Friday, April 12 (Thursday, April 11 in Washington), announced plans to conduct another at-sea trilateral exercise of the coast guards of the United States, Japan, and the Philippines.

The US also said it was “[looking forward] to welcoming Philippine and Japan Coast Guard members onto a US Coast Guard vessel during a patrol in the Indo-Pacific.”

The White House made the announcement following a bilateral meeting between US President Joe Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the White House. The meeting preceded the first-ever leaders’ trilateral meeting between Marcos, Biden, and Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, also at the White House.

In June 2023, Manila was host to the first-ever trilateral coast guard exercise of the three nations. The US’ USCGC Stratton and Japan’s Akitsushima joined the Philippines’ BRP Gabriela Silang and Melchora Aquino to conduct maritime law enforcement exercises in the West Philippine Sea, some 15 nautical miles off the coast of Bataan province.

The West Philippine Sea is the term the Philippines calls part of the South China Sea, including areas that are part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

In a joint statement following the trilateral meeting, Biden, Kishida, and Marcos announced the creation of a “trilateral maritime dialogue to enhance coordination and collective responses to promote maritime cooperation.”

Plans to host a patrol in the Indo-Pacific aboard a US Coast Guard vessel, as well as a commitment to hold another trilateral exercise at-sea is only the latest in growing maritime security ties between the three countries.

The weekend prior to the trilateral meeting in the White House, the US, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia held a joint sail in the West Philippine Sea. Before that, the Philippines has held joint sails with the US thrice and with Australia once.

Closer ties between the three comes as tensions in the West Philippine Sea continue to increase. China claims practically the entire South China Sea, including parts where the Philippines ought to enjoy sovereign rights.

Beijing has ignored a 2016 arbitral ruling that affirmed the Philippines’ rights in those waters.

Under Marcos, Manila has been more assertive in defending its sovereign rights and sovereignty claims in the West Philippine Sea, compared to the previous Duterte administration. China has answered back with more and more aggression.

In Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) and Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels have used their water cannons against smaller Philippine ships. The CCG has also often worked in tandem with the so-called Chinese Maritime Militia, fishing vessels that augment CCG forces in the South China Sea.

Japan is an especially crucial partner for the PCG. Most of the PCG’s newer ships are from Japan, and five more Japan-made vessels are set to be added to the PCG’s fleet.

Both the Philippines and Japan are treaty-allies of the United States. –


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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.