US, Philippines Start Three-Day Joint Patrol in South China Sea

The patrol comes amid rising tensions with China in the region

The US and the Philippines have launched joint air and sea patrols in the South China Sea in a provocative show of force amid rising tensions with China in the region.

Washington and Manila agreed earlier this year to conduct joint patrols in the disputed waters. In September, a US and Philippine warship conducted a “bilateral sail” in the South China Sea, but the patrol launched on Tuesday is being billed as the first of its kind in seven years.

“Today marks the beginning of joint maritime and air patrols— a collaborative effort between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Indo-Pacific Command in the West Philippine Sea,” Philippine President Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. wrote on X. He said the patrols would conclude on Thursday.

According to Financial Times, the patrol includes three Philippine warships and three Philippine aircraft joined by a US Navy littoral combat ship and a US reconnaissance aircraft. Patrols that were ended seven years ago by Marcos Jr.’s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, did not include aircraft.

The patrol kicked off near the island of Mavulis, the Philippines’ northernmost island, which is just over 60 miles from Taiwanese territory. The patrol then headed further west into the South China Sea.

Emboldened by US support, Marcos Jr. has taken a much harder line against China’s claims in the South China Sea than Duterte. Over the past year, dangerous encounters between Chinese and Philippine vessels near disputed rocks and reefs have become common.

Whenever the incidents occur, the US reminds China that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine boats in the South China Sea. Washington and Manila have taken steps to strengthen their decades-old military alliance, and the US has been granted access to four more bases in the country, including three in the north near Taiwan.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.