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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Defending PH maritime territory

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President Ferdinand Marcos has said rather clearly the Philippines will continue to defend its maritime territory which, in international law, denotes the coastal waters in immediate contact with the sea.

That the 66-year-old President underlined this prior to his departure this week for Canberra, Australia, suggests the issue has now publicly reached the highest political corridor of Philippine leadership.

This, at a time when the Philippine Navy said it had monitored an increase in the interference on the electronic communication capabilities of its vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

The President described the situation as “worrisome” – it could not have been less than that, whatever others say – since China’s Coast Guard vessels are now with the Chinese navy in the area which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and there is reported interference on the electronic communication capabilities of Philippine vessels.

But the President’s statement the Philippine government would continue to extend assistance to Filipino fishermen who have been fishing there since time immemorial should ginger up the Filipinos, particularly those who are making a living out of fishing in the area.

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We have been hit by incredulity as we watched developments in the West Philippine Sea where the Chinese have continued to torment Philippine vessels going to Sca5rborough Shoal on humanitarian reasons.

The Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad has said as much when he declared there was an increase in cyber interference, electronic interference and jammings, not only for equipment of the ship but also for land-based communication equipment.

The Philippine Coast Guard earlier said China may be jamming the signal in the WPS to prevent the agency from disproving Beijing’s claims of driving away Philippine vessels from the area.

Trinidad noted such interference usually happened during the cooperation stages for rotation and resupply missions to the WPS.

The area where Philippine ships and China Coast Guard vessels often have run-ins is the Scarborough Shoal, clearly inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone but which China, under its mythical nine-dash line, claims as its own.

An international arbitration tribunal in The Hague said in 2016 that China’s claims had no legal basis – a decision Beijing has rejected.

That makes the atoll one of Asia’s most contested maritime features and a flashpoint for diplomatic flare-ups over sovereignty and fishing rights.

We carry the hope that while the Philippines is continually threatened like a helpless small schoolboy by a misbehaved bully, diplomacy will sail through and have the issue resolved in no time at all.

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