PH, US defense chiefs to meet in Hawaii on sea dispute
FORT SAN FELIPE, Philippines — US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin will meet in Hawaii this week to discuss the escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The two defense chiefs will meet after the turnover rites in the US Pacific Command based in Hawaii. Adm. Harry Harris will take over as USPACOM Commander, replacing Adm. Samuel Locklear.
Gazmin told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Navy’s 117th anniversary rites here on Monday that during his meeting with Carter, he would ask the United States what help and assistance it could offer to the Philippines amid China’s aggression in the disputed waters.
“Tatanong natin hanggang saan ang tulong na mabibigay sa atin, kung paano tayo matutulungan. Right now tayo ang naaapi; tingnan natin kung ano ang extent ng assistance na mabibigay nila to keep us safe from harassment (We’ll ask what they could do to help us and how. Right now, we’ll see what assistance they can extend to keep us safe from harassment),” he said.
China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea have made rapid progress in recent months. Both US and the Philippines recently experienced warnings from China during air patrols, an impression that they are establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
“We are concerned with what’s happening around West Philippine Sea. Nadi-disrupt ang freedom of navigation and freedom of flight. Pati ang US lumlilipad sa international territory nacha-challenge. Parang nagtatayo sila ng sariling control over the airspac, parang ADIZ although wala pang formal it’s going towards that direction,” Gazmin said.
Gazmin also said he would meet with his Japanese counterpart in June when President Benigno Aquino goes there for a presidential visit.
He said the agenda could be on the probability of transferring military equipment, but added the technology, exchange of personnel, transfer of assets and the like are still being worked out.
Japan and China are contesting claims over some islands on the East China Sea. Frances Mangosing/AU