The Philippines and Australia began their first joint sea and air patrols in the South China Sea on Saturday, days after Manila took similar steps with the U.S. as Pacific nations warily eye an increasingly assertive China.

The three-day exercises, announced by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on social media, follow discussions by the Philippines and Australia early this year on joint patrols to underscore what they say is their commitment to a rules-based order.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China's claims had no legal basis.