FORMER foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said there is no need for the Philippines to stop the joint military exercise with the United States just to appease China, pointing out Beijing has been conducting naval exercises with the US and Russia in the contested South China Sea.
In his statement, Del Rosario said the administration should not underestimate the benefits and importance of joint war games with other countries, stressing the military exercises are not just for security concerns but to improve Philippine response to disasters too.
“In June this year, China joined naval exercises hosted by the United States. This month, China conducted naval exercises with Russia in the South China Sea. The Philippines has not interpreted any of these moves provocatively, and China should do the same,” Del Rosario said.
“The Philippines has conducted and joined military exercises with international partners for years, and these should not be interpreted provocatively by any one country,” the retired diplomatic official added.
When he was in Hanoi, Vietnam for his official visit, Duterte said he wanted to stop the joint military exercises with the US because “China does not want.”
“You are scheduled to hold war games again, which China does not want. I would serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise. Jointly, the Philippine-US [exercises would be], the last one,” Duterte said.
The President reiterated his stance to stop sea patrols with the United States, which he sees would only complicate the already testy relationship between Manila and Beijing.
“I will not join any patrol in the [South China Sea],” he said, noting the distinction between gray Navy ships and white Coast Guard vessels.
“There will never be an occasion that I will send gray ships there, not because I’m afraid. [But] I have this ruling by the International Court of Justice that says that in the South China Sea, the entitlements there are ours.”
Del Rosario, however, argued the Philippines should not underestimate the importance of military exercises with the US because it helps not only maritime security, such as strengthening anti-piracy capabilities, addressing internal concerns such as counter-terror and counter-insurgency capabilities.
“The Philippines should not underestimate the importance of military exercises, not only for the strengthening of ties between nations and armed forces, but in developing the capabilities of our military to independently deal with a wide variety of challenges,” Del Rosario said.
He also said the same exercises are also used to improve the military’s ability to respond to humanitarian challenges during natural disasters, as well as conduct search-and-rescue operations.
The annual Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise will be held from Oct. 4 to 12 in multiple locations in Luzon, including Palawan, closest to the disputed waters subject to an ongoing sea row between Manila and Beijing.
This will be the first large-scale combat exercises war games between the two treaty allies under the Duterte administration, who repeatedly called out the United States for meddling in his war on illegal drugs.
The military exercise involves more than 1,400 US military personnel and 500 Philippine Marines in amphibious landing and live-fire exercises affirming the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement, which the Supreme Court upheld last January.
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