Philippines must leverage alliances in West PH Sea –Teodoro

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. on Wednesday pointed out the importance of alliances with like-minded countries amid “the changing threat situation” in the West Philippine Sea.

This was his response when asked about Senator Robin Padilla’s concern over the presence of a US Navy aircraft during the recent resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal.

“With the changing threat situation at saka ang mga kilos ng ating mga katunggali sa West Philippine Sea, kailangan talagang i-leverage natin ang ating mga alyansa hindi naman para kung ano man, but to enforce the rules-based international order at ang UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Teodoro told reporters at the Senate.

(With the changing threat situation and the moves of other countries in the West Philippine Sea, we need to leverate our alliances not for anything but to enforce rules-based international order and the UNCLOS.)

Teodoro said that the US flights over the areas near the WPS were done “periodically” and added that these areas are international airspace where there is freedom of navigation.

He said there were no laws that were violated by the US Navy plane.

“Wala. Sa mata ng Tsina meron dahil kinukupkop nila lahat,” Teodoro said.

(There’s none. In the eyes of China because they are claiming everything.)

Teodoro cited the importance of Philippine allies in asserting the country’s sovereignty over the WPS.

“You know ang laban natin ay para kilalanin ng buong mundo ang ating mga karapatan. Kaya importanteng importante po ang alyansa ng like-minded nations para magkaron ng boses, malakas na boses sa buong mundo,” Teodoro said.

(Our objective is for the whole world to recognize our claims. That’s why the alliance with like-minded nations is important so we may have a louder voice in the whole world.)

Teodoro refuted claims that the Philippines was being used in a “proxy war” and cited the recent incidents against Filipinos.

In the recently-concluded 43rd ASEAN Summit, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. issued a strong statement against “misleading narratives” claiming that the disputes in the South China Sea were due to the rivalry of “two powerful countries.”

“The Philippines firmly rejects misleading narratives that frame the disputes in the South China Sea solely to the lens of strategic competition between two powerful countries,” Marcos said in his intervention during the 43rd ASEAN Summit Retreat Session.

“This not only denies us our independence, our agency, but it also disregards our own legitimate interests,” he added.

While Marcos did not identify the countries he was referring to, it is known that the United States has been one of the Philippines’ staunchest and most vocal allies in its territorial dispute with China involving the part of the South China Sea that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

China has repeatedly called out the US for what it calls meddling in the South China Sea, particularly with regard to the Philippines’ assertion of sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have been contesting China’s massive claim over the South China Sea.

China claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, but the arbitral tribunal in The Hague invalidated this claim on July 12, 2016 following a case filed by the Philippines in 2013.

Beijing has ignored and belittled the ruling, insisting it has “indisputable” and “historical” claim over nearly the entire waters even as it encroaches on the territories of its smaller neighbors like the Philippines. –NB, GMA Integrated News

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