Rizal, Palawan – In a joint military exercise that showcased regional cooperation, Filipino and Australian forces executed a well-coordinated operation to regain “seized” territory from mock invaders in Palawan. The coastal town, strategically positioned in the West Philippine Sea, served as the backdrop for these high-stakes mock drills, conducted against the backdrop of simmering maritime tensions between the Philippines and China.
The air assault maneuvers, featuring a contingent of American troops as well, unfolded as the Philippines sought to defy recent obstacles faced during supply deliveries to Ayungin Shoal. This event transpired just two weeks after China Coast Guard vessels had deterred a Philippine supply boat by using water cannons, hindering the resupply mission.
Australian diplomats and high-ranking military officials observed the joint forces hoisting the Philippine flag upon retaking the “captured” area. The focal point of their victory was the successful raid on Tarumpitao Airfield, a vital installation within Palawan.
Deploying cutting-edge resources, the Royal Australian Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II fighter jets provided vital air support, alongside E-7A Wedgetail surveillance aircraft. The combined troops, transported to a nearby airfield by US Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys from the formidable HMAS Canberra, showcased a potent blend of firepower and strategic execution.
Dubbed “Exercise Alon” (Waves), this momentous event marked the largest joint military exercise between the Philippines and Australia, with the latter being one of the two nations apart from the United States to hold a visiting forces agreement with Manila.
The exercise forms part of the Indo-Pacific Endeavor, Canberra’s paramount engagement initiative in the Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean regions. This initiative aims to bolster security, stability, and intercontinental partnerships.
With participation from over 2,000 personnel — including 1,200 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 1,200 from the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and 150 from the US Marine Corps — these drills spanned from August 13 to August 31. The Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Hae Kyong Yu, highlighted the importance of such exercises in enhancing cooperation and collective security in the region.
“Exercises like these are critical because it’s through these we are putting our words into action. Through these we are increasing our interoperability, we are learning from each other so that the two countries cannot only protect our countries, but also contribute to the collective security of our very important region,” Kyong Yu told the members of the press.
Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos emphasized that these meticulously planned exercises were unrelated to the recent conflict between the Philippines and China. The maneuvers illustrated the nations’ commitment to mutual protection and the safeguarding of regional security, transcending the immediate geopolitical dynamics.