Last week, the Philippine Navy (PN) revealed more details about what the Philippines may look to do when it hosts a key naval engagement later this year. While some specifics remain unclear, it nonetheless spotlighted the ongoing status of preparations for a key event for the Southeast Asian state.
As I have noted before in these pages, one of the key defense-related activities that the Philippines will be undertaking in 2020 is its inaugural hosting of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) – a biennial meeting where talks are held with some visible manifestations in recent years, including with the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) negotiated back in 2014. Manila will be hosting the WPNS later this year expected from May 19-21, along with a number of other events, including the International Fleet Review (IFR).
As we near the Philippines’ hosting of the engagement, we have seen some developments play out along the way as well. For instance, earlier this month, the Philippines held a preliminary workshop at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City to discuss issues ahead of the WPNS, with the theme of effective ocean governance for regional partnership and stability.
Last week, we received a few more details about the shape of the Philippines’ hosting of the engagement. The Philippine Navy revealed more specifics about what the WPNS would look like later this year, including the expected level of participation so far and the vessels that the PN will be putting out for the IFR.
Per PN public affairs office chief Maria Christina Roxas and as reported by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), 13 nations thus far have confirmed their attendance to the WPNS with another 15 countries committing to send their ships to the IFR, following earlier estimates that at least 24 navies would be attending these event.
Additionally, PH flag-officer in-command Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told PNA in an interview on February 20 that the country’s first missile frigate, the BRP Jose Rizal, will be leading the PN contingent in the IFR, which will be held off Manila Bay near Corregidor and Bataan, with the reviewing ships being the Tarlac-class landing dock. In addition, Bacordo also added that since the WPNS would be coinciding with the PN’s founding anniversary on May 20, participating navy chiefs will be invited to the Navy Ball as well.
To be sure, there are still many details that we have yet to learn about the Philippines’ hosting of the WPNS. Nonetheless, as we get closer to its hosting in May, any specifics regarding the content of the agenda or related developments will continue to be important to watch to get a sense of what lies ahead as well as beyond this.