As violent extremist militias in the southern areas of the Philippines step up attacks, joint patrols by US and Philippine navies have been initiated, in spite of anti-America posturing by the country’s President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to a US Navy spokesperson, the USS Coronado and a Philippine Navy frigate, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, on Saturday completed a four-day joint patrol in the southwestern Filipino waters of the Sulu Sea, following a request by Manila.
Recently there has been an uptick in acts of maritime violence in the region by Abu Sayyaf extremists, particularly as Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese tugboat and cargo ship crew members are kidnapped and held for ransom.
The US Navy spokesperson described the coordinated patrols as "safe and routine," according to Stripes.com.
It is not known where in the Manila government the request for US maritime assistance originated, as Duterte has recently placed a large order for Chinese weapons and publicly castigated Washington, including calling former US President Barack Obama a "son of a whore."
Duterte's comments notwithstanding, the US Navy has been quick to reply to Manila's request for aid, sending the fleet's Task Force 73 to liaison with its Philippines counterpart, in an attempt to "enhance regional peace and stability," according to US Navy Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson.
"Our at-sea operations with the Philippine navy demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and deter piracy and illegal activities," he added, cited by Stripes.com
Prior to the announcement of the joint patrol, Duterte — who has reached out to China as a means to replace decades of economic and military backing by Washington — declared that he would bar any US forces from taking part in any actions in the Philippines, claiming that a US military presence increased terrorism in the region.
Duterte and his top staff have dropped back from the original anti-American boasts, however, as US Air Force surveillance aircraft have participated in the fight against Daesh-affiliated Maute extremists who have occupied southern Philippines' Marawi City for over a month.
The Filipino president has not commented on allegations that Philippines military officials bypassed his authority to request assistance from the US, instead remarking that, "our soldiers are pro-American, that I cannot deny."
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.