While the recent laser pointing incident has increased diplomatic tensions with Beijing, yet another blatant violation of Philippine territorial rights has been reported by the Philippine Coast Guard when they sighted 42 suspected Chinese Maritime Militia vessels in what looks like another swarming maneuver in waters well within the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of Pag-asa Island established in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In a published statement, the PCG said, “Their continuing unauthorized presence is clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a blatant violation of the Philippines’ territorial integrity.”
Pag-asa Island is a municipality of Kalayaan Province of Palawan and is home to 400 Filipino citizens together with the local government, law enforcement, and military personnel stationed in the island.
Just a day before the news broke out on this new CMM intrusion into Philippine territory, top geopolitical analysts and security experts voiced their support for a trilateral defense mechanism that the Philippines, the United States, and Japan can enforce amidst China’s persistent acts of aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
This was during a hybrid-forum organized by think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, the Japan Embassy, and the United States Embassy in the Philippines.
Mr. Kenichi Matsuda, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, stated the importance of securing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and recognized the shared values and principles that Japan and the Philippines such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Professor Miyake Kunihiko, the Research Director of the Canon Institute for Global Studies who is an expert in Japanese foreign affairs and security said that given the evolving security environment in this region the prospect of trilateral cooperation between the Philippines, Japan, and the United States is a “natural process” where more countries working together will be able to cover the wide waters of the Indo-Pacific region.
He believes Japanese government is very serious in forging a visiting forces arrangement with the Philippines but qualifies that “It is not a means to coerce foreign countries. It is a means to send the right message to those who wish to change the status quo by force and not in compliance with the international law. Then they will think twice.”
Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Committee Member, United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration and Senior Economist at the Ateneo Policy Center, expounded on the strategic importance of Japan as an economic partner of the Philippines.
“Despite our earlier checkered history, Japan has become one of our closest and trusted democratic partners in Asia. This goes well beyond the economic and security partnerships our two nations have forged. This is people to people,” Mendoza said.
He adds “it’s critical to acknowledge that the economic partnership is even more important in the face of presently elevated geo-political risks notably due to rising tensions involving China and the US.”
For his part, Mr. Gregory Poling, a Senior Fellow and Director at the Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies, called for continued and increasing support from both the US and Japan on maritime domain awareness capabilities for the AFP and the Philippine Coast Guard. He sees the US continuing support to the Philippines and Japan in areas of defense, security, and economy.
Stratbase ADRi President, Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit expressed the institute’s support for bilateral, multilateral, and even minilateral initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability in the region.
“With the national interest as prime requisite, the President Marcos Jr. administration must continue to implement an independent external policy that is responsive, strategic, and Filipino centric. As a leader of our nation during these trying, complex, and precarious times, the people will expect an unwavering performance of his duty to uphold the territorial and sovereign rights of our country,” Prof. Manhit said.
Japan and United States have consistently supported our victory in the 2016 arbitral ruling that junked China’s 9-dash claim and upheld our rights in the West Philippine Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone.
The socio-economic history of our people’s and the strong economic partnerships nurtured through generations indeed makes it natural for the three countries to further strengthen alliances to safeguard against the creeping Chinese aggression that threatens to spark military confrontation that, like the war in Ukraine, will have serious global repercussions.
More discussions are set to dissect the dynamics of how to counter these so called “Gray Zone Operations” of China in the maritime Indo-Pacific in the upcoming hybrid forum organized by Stratbase ADRi in partnership with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines, on March 5, 2023, Wednesday, 9-12pm.
Register for free at the Stratbase ADRi facebook page.