Honasan: Spy planes not enough, bring US military to West Philippine SeaBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Spy planes are OK, but then what?
Senator Gregorio Honasan called, on Tuesday, for an actual military presence by the United States in the Scarborough Shoal and other disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea to help protect Philippine interests there.
Honasan, a former Army colonel, welcomed President Benigno Aquino’s move to tap US spy planes to monitor activities in the area and relay information to the Philippine government.
“But the question really is: What do we do with that information?” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “If they just feed us information that there’s an intrusion but the Americans would do nothing, useless.”
Honasan said the US could send a “carrier task group” composed of an aircraft carrier and destroyers to police the area where the Philippines has accused China of harassing its vessels.
The senator said the US could also redeploy to Scarborough some of its troops currently in Mindanao as part of the Visiting Forces Agreement. He said the US military presence would help “level” the field between the Philippines and China, which boasted of a much stronger military.
“In a bilateral situation, there should be a parity of forces, of leverage. But in our case with China, there’s none. That’s why I need to underscore the need for a third party, an observer,” he said.
Honasan added: “They’ll be the ‘barangay tanod.’ They’ll be the police. They will monitor everything. Any movement of naval and air assets in the area will be monitored by the US.”
In case a Philippine vessel is blocked by China, for instance, he said the US could serve as a third party to ensure that any agreement between the two claimant countries would be observed.
“If there’s a violation of the initial agreement, of ground rules, there would be a disinterested party that would call the attention (of both countries), and I think the US fits that role,” he said.
But before getting the US on board, the Philippine government should clarify where the US stood when it came to the dispute with China, said Honasan.
“We have to ask the US: Do they believe that the Scarborough Shoal belongs to us? I think we should get a categorical answer from them,” he said.
“If they say it belongs to China, it’s over. Let’s go home,” he added. “Now if they believe that it belongs to the Philippines, help us put up structures there and deploy your troops there. Establish a naval component there as a monitoring device for your deployed air and naval asset.”
Honasan said the Scarborough dispute would allow the Aquino administration to “test” whether the US put more value on its historical ties with the Philippines than its relationship with China.
“Now is the time to test it,” he said.
While trying to get the US more involved, the Philippines should also conduct backdoor negotiations with China over the possibility of a joint exploration of the disputed territory, the senator said.
“There should be backdoor diplomacy. This is not a simple issue,” he said.
Tags: China , Defense , Diplomacy , Espionage , Foreign affairs , geopolitics , intelligence , International relations , Military , national security , Philippines , Scarborough Shoal , Spratly Islands , territorial disputes , Territories , US , US military planes