Philippines to host multinational naval drills amid confrontations with China
Stars and Stripes September 29, 2023
The U.S. and Philippine navies will join seven other nations Monday for a 12-day exercise near the island of Luzon amid Chinese maneuvering in the South China Sea.
Exercise Samasama — Tagalog for “together” — will include anti-submarine, anti-surface, anti-air and electronic warfare practice, according to a Wednesday statement from the Philippine armed forces.
The drills follow a series of confrontations by the Philippine and Chinese coast guards in the South China Sea, where they’re at odds over territorial claims.
Both nations have installed buoys in disputed waters. Filipino officials said Monday their forces had removed a floating barrier installed by China near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
The drills could help the U.S. manage its Philippine ally’s anger over Chinese provocation, according to Patricio Abinales, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s School of Pacific and Asian Studies.
U.S. officials are likely “fearful” of what the Philippines could do next after removing the Chinese barrier at Scarborough, Abinales said by email Friday.
“There is a lot of irritation and anger among Filipinos at this continued affront by China, but one of these days their navy - weak as it may be - will fire a shot over the bow of a Chinese coast guard ship,” he said. “Filipinos do not like to be bullied and they might reach a breaking point.”
During the Samasama drills, the U.S. and Philippines navies will hold subject-matter exchanges and practice humanitarian assistance and disaster response with navies from Japan, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, the Philippine statement said.
French and Australian sailors will join the subject-matter exchanges and New Zealand and Indonesian sailors will observe, the statement said.
The exercise will involve 733 sailors from the Philippines; 632 from the U.S.; 244 from Canada; 169 from Japan; 34 from Britain; seven from France; three from Australia; two from Indonesia; and one from New Zealand, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported Wednesday.
Participating ships include the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey and cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra; the missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna from the Philippines; the offshore patrol vessel HMS Spey from the United Kingdom; the frigate HMCS Vancouver from Canada; and the Japanese destroyer JS Akebono, the agency reported.
Samasama follows recent drills by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to Ian Chong, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.
“The exercises do not change any party’s claims, but I suppose the Philippines and others are trying to encourage the [China] to be more moderate in its behavior at sea and in the air while it pursues its claims,” he said by email Friday.