Will joint maritime patrols by the Philippines and the United States in our Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea work?
They can work in two ways.
First, they may be able to stop China’s gunboat diplomacy in the SCS undertaken on the basis of their so-called “nine-dash-line” which has absolutely no basis in history nor in international law.
Beijing cannot claim ownership of practically the whole of the large South China Sea because of “historical right” because this sea lane should always be open to global trade and commerce.
Imposing a blockade of the SCS through the presence of the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia masquerading as civilian fishing boats is plain and simple bullying of other nations also claiming ownership of disputed territories.
Second, they can allow our fisherfolk to freely go to their traditional fishing grounds in our EEZ without harassment from the China Coast Guard and maritime militia.
China has brazenly violated our national sovereignty and territorial integrity by building artificial islands with permanent structures believed for military use.
The support expressed by two of our senators for the recent agreement for joint maritime patrols by the Philippines and the US in the South China Sea is welcome news.
Sen. Francis Escudero believes the planned joint patrols as well as the move to allow US access to more military bases in the Philippines under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement should not be cause for worry that they might trigger hostile reaction from Beijing.
“For me it’s clear that our ally, when it comes to security, is the US, and not China…For those saying we might anger China, I don’t believe that a government or country should make decisions based on fear or what other nations might think of us,” he said.
“Let’s remember it’s not in the interest of any country to start a war or trouble, but want to avoid them…but if in the process of avoiding war will mean more freedom for our fishermen to fish in our seas, why not? Why should we allow the Chinese Coast Guard or Navy ships to drive away our fishermen from seas that is ours in the first place?” the lawmaker pointed out.
He is correct.
For Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, joint patrols and other military activities with the US would enhance military interoperability between the two countries.
Apart from this, the US can also render assistance when the country is hit by natural disasters such as strong typhoons that can lead to massive flooding and displacement of large numbers of people living in vulnerable low-lying communities.
The senator is convinced the regular presence of the US in the South China Sea is important for stability as it would help improve the balance of power in the region.
“It’s important that we have an ally to balance a power like China, with which we have issues (like) harassment incidents in the WPS,” Gatchalian said.
From another direction, former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has also welcomed the renewed security alliance between the Philippines and the US.
This would “enhance our longstanding alliance and particularly improve the Philippines’ deterrent capacity against unlawful incursions in our national territory,” Del Rosario said.
He cited survey results showing the majority of Filipinos are in favor of building a credible defense posture against unlawful incursions in our national territory.
The former top diplomat also recommended bringing to the United Nations General Assembly the country’s legal victory against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which voided Beijing’s claim of ownership over vast stretches of the South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ own maritime entitlements.
This is something that’s long overdue, from where we sit.
Del Rosario also welcomed the addition of four new sites where US forces can operate on rotational basis under EDCA, saying the development is in the interest of both the Philippines and the US.
There are five previously announced sites in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Palawan, with the four additional sites yet to be announced.
We concur with the recent joint statement of US Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd and our Acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez that the agreement to add four more EDCA locations in the country “will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges.”
As a key pillar of the US-Philippines alliance, EDCA supports combined training, exercises and interoperability between the armed forces of the two countries.
If EDCA expansion as well as joint patrols in our EEZ will be a deterrent to bullying of our fishermen and even our Coast Guard and Navy by outside forces, then by all means the Marcos administration will be serving the national interest.
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