The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) and the Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel (OPV) BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS 15) conducted a bilateral sail in the South China Sea. Naval vessels from the Philippines and United States conducted a joint sail through parts of the South China Sea lying within the Southeast Asian nation’s exclusive economic zone. Dewey is forward-deployed and assigned to Commander, Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. This event aims to provide an opportunity for the Philippine Navy and the US Indo-Pacific Navy to test and refine existing maritime doctrine. The display of cooperation between the US and Philippines comes at a time of heightened tension between Manila and Beijing, which claims much of the South China Sea.
Beijing claims 90% of the South China Sea, a maritime region believed to hold a wealth of untapped oil reserves and through which roughly $4.5tn of ship-borne trade passes every year. China also has built militarised, manmade islands in the South China Sea and its claim of historic sovereignty overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. The Philippines won an international arbitration award against China in 2016, after a tribunal said Beijing’s sweeping claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea had no legal basis. Manila has repeatedly complained against what it described as China’s “aggressive” actions in the South China Sea, including the use of a water cannon by its coast guard against a Philippines vessel engaged in a resupply mission on Aug. 5.