US admiral slams China’s actions in West PH Sea

US admiral slams China’s actions in West PH Sea

SECURITY CONCERNS US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino (third from left) discusses security and maritime issues with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. at Camp Aguinaldo on March 13. —PHOTO COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

SECURITY CONCERNS US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino (third from left) discusses security and maritime issues with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. at Camp Aguinaldo on March 13. —PHOTO COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

The chief of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom) has added his voice to international criticism of China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of National Defense (DND) said, citing his meeting last week with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

Indopacom chief Adm. John Aquilino was in Manila as part of a US trade and investment mission in the Philippines that began on March 11.


In his meeting with Teodoro on March 13, Aquilino “condemned the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard and emphasized the importance of continued international engagement on the issue,” the DND said in a statement on Monday, referring to a collision early this month between Chinese and Philippine Coast Guard vessels at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.


Teodoro also discussed with Aquilino the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept “as a key strategy in achieving this goal,” the department said.

The defense chief explained that, “in plain language, we are developing our capability to protect and secure our entire territory and exclusive economic zone in order to ensure that our people and all the generations of Filipinos to come shall freely reap and enjoy the bounties of the natural resources that are rightfully ours within our domain.”

Teodoro and Aquilino also agreed to fast-track the General Security of Military Information Agreement, a proposed agreement between Manila and Washington that would establish a framework for information technology collaboration between their armed forces.

READ: Blinken cites ‘new horizon of cooperation’ between US, PH, Japan

Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers continued to pursue his proposal for the establishment of US facilities in his home province.

Barbers commended the concentration of forces in provinces immediately facing Philippine (Benham) Rise northeast of Luzon, but said another facility under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in Surigao del Norte would help further secure the country’s vast eastern seaboard.


Bicameral report

Earlier on Monday, the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act, which delineates the country’s maritime zones in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the 2016 Hague arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines’ maritime case against China and other international laws.

During Monday’s plenary session, Sen. Francis Tolentino noted that the bicameral report, which consolidates Senate Bill No. 2492 and House Bill No. 7819, also adopts the title, “An Act Declaring the Maritime Zones Under the Jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines.”

The proposed law aims to empower the government “to effectively manage and regulate activities within the maritime zones, ensure sustainable development, and conserve environmental resources for the future generation,” explained Tolentino, chair of the Senate special committee on Philippine maritime and admiralty zones.

Under the measure, he said, the Philippines “reserves the right to take the necessary legal and diplomatic action against states whose vessels and aircraft do not abide by or act inconsistently with Unclos and international law.”

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, coauthor of the Senate version of the measure, said it serves to “strengthen the country’s legal framework, bolstering its ability to assert and defend its maritime sovereignty.”

Alleged commitment

At the House of Representatives, Deputy Minority Leader France Castro on Tuesday urged the chamber to look into China’s assertion last year that it had secured the Philippines’ commitment, under former President Rodrigo Duterte, to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal. The grounded vessel serves as a Philippine military outpost there.

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Castro, ACT Teachers party list representative, and her allies in the Makabayan bloc had noted that President Marcos and all his other surviving predecessors—with the exception of Duterte—had denied any knowledge of such an agreement with China. —WITH A REPORT FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE INQ

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TAGS: China, United States, West Philippine Sea

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