‘Balikatan’ comes at ‘crucial time’ vs security threats–Del Rosario
MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has criticized China for allegedly undermining the rule of law.
Del Rosario made the statement at the opening ceremonies of Balikatan exercises at Camp Aguinaldo on Friday.
“Well I think that we have taken the position that China’s claim for undisputable sovereignty in the South China Sea is an excessive claim and it’s a violation of international law, that’s what I’m referring,” he told reporters in an ambush interview after the ceremonies.
“I think that the judges have already been named and I think we’re working towards a completion of the five judges in the arbitral tribunal and so once that’s done I think the situation or the case will proceed as planned,” he said on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China over West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In his speech at the ceremonies, del Rosario said this year’s Balikatan came “at a crucial time” for the country and the region, as “excessive and exaggerated maritime and territorial claims have not only created uncertainty but have undermined the rule of law, regional peace and stability had been placed at serious risk.”
“We need to secure our borders and protect our territorial integrity more vigorously than we have before,” he added.
He said the joint exercises between the United States and Philippine military are “important, practical and strategic” in building the capacity of the Philippines to secure and defend itself.
He added that the Philippines was “investing in its own defense at levels never seen before,” but said that the value of these investments would be increased through joint training and other agreed activities with the country’s allies.
Del Rosario noted that in the past three months, the US and Philippines have had “high level” exchanges wherein both sides “reiterated their firm commitments as strategic partners and treaty allies.”
The Balikatan will also address natural disasters, which del Rosario referred as “another serious security threat.”
“The United Nations has identified our region as the most prone to natural disasters. It is significant that there is again a strong humanitarian assistance and disaster response component to this year’s Balikatan,” Del Rosario said.
Over 8,000 Filipino and American troops will participate in the joint exercises in Central Luzon.