Manila holds joint naval patrol with US to deter Islamist militants in southern Philippine waters

Manila: The United States and Philippine navies held a joint naval patrol on Saturday in dangerous southern Philippine waters, amid rising international concern about Islamist militancy and piracy in the region.

United States Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado joined a Philippine Navy frigate, BRP Alcaraz, in patrolling the Sulu Sea where numerous pirate attacks on commercial shipping have been made since 2015.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Our at-sea operations with the Philippine Navy demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and deter piracy and illegal activities,” United States Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson said in a statement issued by the United States embassy in Manila.

There are international fears fighters sympathetic to Islamic State will cross maritime borders between Malaysia and Indonesia to join Muslim rebels who seized Marawi City in the southern Philippines five weeks ago.

About 300 militants, 82 security forces and 44 civilians have been killed in the fighting.

The naval patrols were held at the invitation of the Philippine government, the United States embassy said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte does not allow joint patrols with the United States in the disputed South China Sea to avoid damaging its relations with China, which claims the sea as its own.

But he welcomes cooperation in the south due to increased militant activity. Two weeks ago, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines held joint naval patrols in southern waters.

Published Date: Jul 01, 2017 12:07 PM | Updated Date: Jul 01, 2017 12:07 PM

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