The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier initiated a scheduled port call in Manila, Philippines, on Saturday, even as tensions between China and the United States’ ally have surged due to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The Navy’s Japan-based carrier, Ronald Reagan, had previously visited Manila in October 2022, and Navy officials clarified that this recent visit had been planned well in advance and was not a direct response to the latest tensions between Beijing and Manila.
Nonetheless, the presence of the Ronald Reagan underscores the strengthening alliance between the United States and the Philippines in light of China’s increasingly assertive actions in the South China Sea.
The visit also reinforces recent U.S. commitments to defend the Philippines in the event of an armed attack, following a collision incident between Chinese ships and two Filipino vessels near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on October 22. While no injuries were reported, the encounters resulted in damage to a Philippine coast guard ship and a wooden-hulled supply boat operated by navy personnel.
In response, Philippine diplomats promptly summoned a Chinese Embassy official in Manila to lodge a vigorous protest.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. convened an emergency meeting with the defense secretary and other top military and security officials to address the recent hostilities in the contested waters.
The Philippines, along with neighboring countries, has steadfastly opposed China’s broad territorial claims, particularly in the South China Sea, and has sought U.S. military support as tensions continue to escalate.
Joining the Ronald Reagan on its port call in Manila were the cruisers Robert Smalls and Antietam.
Captain Daryle Cardone, the commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan, expressed the crew’s eagerness to engage in sightseeing, community relations projects, and immerse themselves in the rich culture, cuisine, and history of the Philippines. He noted the warm welcome the Filipino people have extended to the entire crew, expressing gratitude for their return.
In February, the United States and the Philippines announced an agreement that grants U.S. troops access to nine bases in the Philippines, including several in proximity to or bordering the South China Sea north of the Philippines. Notably, this agreement does not permit permanent U.S. troop stationing on these islands.
The U.S. Navy had operated from the extensive base at Subic Bay for nearly a century before its closure in 1992.