The United States on Thursday said that it will send Commandos and combat aircraft to the Philippines for more frequent rotations, and will conduct more joint sea and air patrols in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement in a news conference with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. It was the first time the U.S. revealed that their ships had carried out joint patrols with the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
The increased troop presence is part of the U.S. campaign to expand its military aid to the Philippines as China continues to build man-made islands in the West Philippine Sea.
While the U.S. troops will not be permanently based in the Philippines, the increased U.S. military presence and activities in the Philippines still threatens China.
“Military exchanges by relevant countries should not target third parties, much less support a few countries in challenging China’s sovereignty and security, inciting regional contradictions and sabotaging regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Through the end of the month, the U.S. will keep nearly 300 troops including Air Force special operations forces armed with combat aircraft and helicopters in the Philippines.
The joint patrols will improve the Philippine navy and “contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.” Two patrols have taken place since March, said Carter.
The boost in military support comes as Philippines’ ambassador to the U.S. asked the Obama administration to help counter China’s build up near the Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing grounds to the Filipino fishermen.
A leader of a northwestern Philippine village, Charlito Maniago, said that the joint patrols will bring hope that fishermen can again sail freely to the rich fishing ground.
“This will boost the confidence of our fishermen because they think the U.S. has the capability to defend them,” Maniago told The Associated Press by telephone from the coastal village of Cato in Pangasinan province. “The presence of America will make China think twice.”
The Pentagon last week, announced that the US will give the Philippines about $40 million in military assistance to boost surveillance and naval patrols. It will include an enhanced information network, sensors for patrol vessels and an unmanned aerostat reconnaissance airship to help the Philippines guard its territory.