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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Engage China in WPS talks only if Beijing is sincere, says Teodoro

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The Philippines should engage China in bilateral talks concerning the West Philippine Sea only if Beijing is sincere in doing so, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said.

“If there are going to be bilateral discussions, it must be based on fundamental principles and it must be based on sincerity, that it shall not be used merely as a weapon in order to constrain the Philippines,” Teodoro said.

“This is my personal belief that formal bilateral discussions should only be held when it is proven that they are sincere,” he added.

As this developed, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the military forces of the Philippines and Australia successfully concluded a joint patrol, despite the shadowing done by Chinese vessels.

Brawner said there were two instances of shadowing during the joint patrol.

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On Saturday, Brawner said a Chinese vessel was seen shadowing Philippine and Australian vessels.

On Sunday, two Chinese fighter jets were spotted circling around the flight route of the joint patrol for 15 minutes.

Brawner said such incidents are not unusual, as China has been doing the same to vessels and aircraft from other countries such as the United States and Japan.

The “maritime cooperative activity” between the Philippines and Australia came days after the United States held a similar exercise with the Philippines in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.

In a joint statement, the Australian and Philippine defense chiefs said the three-day patrols showed their “shared commitment to exercising freedom of navigation and overflight consistent with international law.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines gained support from at least 15 of the 27 member countries of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) for its bid to secure a seat in the UN Security Council for 2027-2028, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Monday.

During the three-day APPF meeting held in Pasay City last week, Philippine lawmakers were able to lobby their counterparts to back the country’s UNSC bid, which comes amid growing aggressive behavior by China in the West Philippine Sea.

“We secured firm and new commitments from the countries we have approached,” Zubiri said. “In fact, some of them even wrote to us to formalize their commitments.”

He added Speaker Martin Romualdez had informed him that another country would support the Philippine bid, bringing the number who backed Manila to 16.

Zubiri said he would not identify the nations that committed to supporting Manila’s bid since there is another country lobbying for the same spot.

“We don’t want to telegraph our punches,” he said.

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