Members of the Philippine and Japanese navies will hold more trainings this month to beef up maritime awareness amid China’s continuing buildup in the region.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, Philippine Navy spokesman, the trainings will be held when members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) visit the country from June 22 to 26.

“The Philippine Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) are exploring areas of training and cooperation — among them humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime search and rescue, and maritime situational awareness… These are the activities lined up for the JMSDF visit,” he said.

Arevalo said a JMSDF aircraft will take part in the exercises but declined to reveal its type, as well as the area where the trainings will be held.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported earlier that the JMSDF will send a P-3C Orion surveillance plane for the drills while the Philippine Navy is set to use a vessel and aircraft.

It said the exercises will be held in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Staff-to-staff talks will also be held to strengthen and institutionalize information-sharing in a bid to “step-up maritime situational awareness,” Arevalo said.

“This navy-to-navy engagement envisions to share new tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as best practices to further maritime operations,” he added.

This month’s drills come amid tensions stemming from China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

They will be the third between the Philippine and Japanese navies in just two years.

The two navies held “passing exercises” in parts of the West Philippine Sea off Palawan and Zambales provinces — where China has been building up its presence — on September 25, 2014 and last May 12, respectively.

The upcoming drills also come a week after President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on a transfer of defense equipment and stronger cooperation between the two countries’ militaries.

Japan and the Philippines are presently locked in a common maritime dispute with China in the East Sea and West Philippine Sea, respectively. (John Roson)

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