Some senators are calling on the government to partner with other countries to defend the Philippines’ claims in the South China Seaand to deter Chinese aggression in the hotly contested strategic waterway.
Sen. Francis Tolentino reiterated his proposal for joint patrols with other countries in the West Philippine Sea — the portion of the South China Sea claimed by Manila — to prevent another incident with Beijing.
“If another coast guard, part of the joint patrol in an agreement to be formulated, would join us I think it will lessen that and even allow fishermen near Bajo de Masinloc to fish freely and it will likewise show the good faith of the Chinese Coast Guard and militia if they allow that,” Tolentino told One News’ “The Chiefs.”
For Sen. JV Ejercito, now is the “best time for us to work with our regional neighbors and defense partners in countering China’s aggression.”
Ejercito added that the government should fast track the modernization of the Armed Forces and strengthen the country’s defense posture.
“We need to put up a naval force that can project a more respectable presence in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said there is a need to create an updated security framework with regional partners “as soon as possible” as she renewed her call for Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs to meet with other ASEAN countries claiming parts of the South China Sea and members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
“China’s boorishness will continue if they won’t be stopped,” Hontiveros said in a statement in Filipino.
But Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who previously served as foreign affairs chief under the Duterte administration, urged caution in seeking cooperation with other countries to deter China.
“We should ask the question whether these exercises with other countries would actually help or aggravate the situation near and long-term,” Cayetano said in a media interview as he pointed out that other South China Sea claimants like Malaysia and Vietnam are beefing up their military might.
Senators made these comments after it was reported that Chinese Coast Guard personnel shadowed, blocked and aimed a military-grade laser at their Filipino counterparts while they were on assisting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy.
The Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China over what it called “aggressive activities” by its coast guard, which it said were “disturbing and disappointing” as the incident comes weeks after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Beijing.