MANILA, Philippines—The war games between the United States and the Philippines will only “heighten tension” in the West Philippine Sea, a leftwing lawmaker said Thursday.
Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said Manila “should strongly assert our territory against China” as he branded the two superpowers as world bullies.
“We should not allow a bully to replace another bully,” said Colmenares.
A US destroyer will join the Philippine Navy’s flagship for war games starting Thursday. The exercises are a boost for the Philippines’ poorly equipped military as it struggles with perceived rising Chinese aggression, and follows repeated pleas to longtime ally the United States for protection.
“The goal of these exercises is to further boost cooperation… between the two armed forces and further streamline responses to counter-terrorism and maritime security,” Deputy Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
Colmenares denounced “President Benigno Aquino III’s subservience, undermining of our sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of the dispute.”
“The US troops should be pulled out and we will file a resolution to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.
The six-day exercises are an annual event but this year they will be held off the west coast of Luzon, close to Panatag Shoal which China insists it owns.
The shoal is a tiny set of rocks and islets in the West Philippine Sea, also known as South China Sea, 230 kilometers east of Luzon and 1,200 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese landmass.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital West Philippine Sea, even waters close to the shores of its smaller neighbors. With Agence France-Presse