Hontiveros says PH shouldn’t be caught in US-China crossfire as ‘Balikatan’ began
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should not be caught in the crossfire between the United States and China, Senator Risa Hontiveros said, as the largest-ever Balikatan military exercises kicked off in the country on Tuesday.
“Hindi tayo dapat pumayag na maipit between two warring hegemons – China and the US. Meron ngang kasabihan, ‘Kapag ang dalawang elepante daw nagsagupaan, baka mapisa nalang iyong mga damo sa paa nila’,” Hontiveros said on social media.
(We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be stuck in the middle of two warring hegemons – China and the US. There’s a saying that goes, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”)
The opposition senator then pressed for the Philippines to “call on more countries to band together, to preserve stability, to uphold a rules-based process even with regards to our conflicts, and of course, to uphold peace in the world.”
“It is in our better greater longer-term interest na maghanap ng isang concrete expression of multilateral foreign relations, especially on the waters in and beyond the West Philippine Sea, in the greater South China Sea, that will better serve Filipinos and even regional and global interests,” she said.
The 18-day Balikatan exercise between Manila and Washington, which will include sinking a target vessel near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, comes against the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and versus self-ruled Taiwan.
The joint military drills also came after the announcement of four additional Philippine locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement of Manila and Washington.
China has repeatedly warned against the strengthened defense pact, claiming it can “seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability.”