Philippines, Vietnam Mull Joint War Games

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Joint naval exercises and patrols may be held by Vietnam and the Philippines along common maritime borders in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where the two nations have staked claims to some of the disputed Spratly islands.

The territorial claims of the Philippines and Vietnam are up against those of regional giant China, which claims the entire Spratlys island chain.

Top Philippine Navy officials came to an agreement with Vietnamese counterparts during a visit to Vietnam from March 11 to 14.

The navy chiefs agreed on standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide interaction between their respective navies in the vicinity of Southeast Cay and the Northeast Cay Island.The SOPs implement a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the two Navy chiefs last October.

The Philippines occupies Northeast Cay Island, which it refers to as Parola Island 45 kilometers northwest of Pag-asa Island, the biggest of the Philippine-occupied islets in the Spratlys. It is three kilometers north of Vietnam-occupied Southwest Cay Island which the Philippines refers to as Pugad Island.

The Spratly chain of islands is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, which have laid claim on parts of the islands, and by China which claims the entire Spratlys.

The chiefs also discussed the possibility of a communication hotline between the operations center of the Philippine Navy and the Vietnam People’s Navy covering common areas of naval operations, especially for search and rescue.

“This includes the proposed conduct of joint maritime patrols in these common maritime domains,” the Navy said. The Vietnam navy chief thanked the Philippine Navy delegation for the recent rescue of 12 Vietnamese fishermen who were found in distress by the Philippine Navy, and another nine fishermen rescued by the Philippine Coast Guard.