PH urged to file protest vs China’s incursions
A maritime and security expert have called on the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest over China’s apparent incursions into the country’s territorial waters after a dozen of its military and fishing vessels were spotted near Pag-asa Island last week.
The presence of the Chinese vessels within the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), the Philippine occupied area in the disputed Spratlys, indicate that a “potential for crisis exists,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
Batongbacal said that Chinese fishing near Pag-asa, an inhabited island under the jurisdiction of Palawan, had been reported since 2013.
“But the instances are indeed provocative given that it’s very close to Pag-asa Island. Potential for crisis exists. If China does indeed permanently occupy, it would be a real slap in the face of (President Duterte’s) friendship policy,” Batongbacal told the Inquirer on Sunday.
“It is right to be concerned always, given our tenuous hold on the Kalayaan Island Group. But I don’t think we should be dismissive or overreactive either. It merits a measured response, like a diplomatic note pointing out the provocative nature of the activity,” Batongbacal said.
For his part, security analyst Francisco Ashley Acedillo questioned the current government’s policy in protecting the country’s territorial integrity and national interests.
“That policy, sadly, is both fragmented and incoherent, at best. Both the Palace and the Department of Foreign Affairs believe that our policy in the KIG and the West Philippine Sea must involve massive concessions and a shift away from vigilance and a guarded optimism to one of trust and accommodation,” Acedillo told the Inquirer.
Acedillo said that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s “sanguine reading of Chinese policy and interest is a serious miscalculation bordering on treasonous betrayal of the national interest.”
“We should not sacrifice national security and our patrimony at the altar of Chinese largesse and yet-to-be proven benevolence,” he said.
For Acedillo, the government must continue to improve the Philippines’ detachments and even “bolster” the number of personnel guarding the reefs and shoals in the KIG.
He added that maritime domain awareness and deter “unwanted or the threatening presence of foreign elements” should be part of the actions to defend the country’s claim in KIG.
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