PH vows to ‘tap every resource’ to defend disputed sea
MANILA, Philippines -Amid continuing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) the Philippines said it is pushing for peace in the Southeast Asian region, but will not hesitate to “tap every resource,” and “call on every alliance” to defend its territory.
“Our region would also need to know that we are steadfastly for peace; but that we stand ready to tap every resource, to call on every alliance, to do what is necessary in order to defend what is ours, to secure our nation and to keep our people safe,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday.
Del Rosario, together with Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Voltaire Gazmin, announced in a press conference the official start of negotiations between the United States (US) and the Philippines on their increased rotational presence.
“Some time ago, we developed a policy and arrived at an understanding with the US, our treaty ally, on increased rotational presence,” he said.
The policy would be institutionalized once negotiations, which are set to being this week, are complete and a framework agreement has been signed by both countries.
Del Rosario said that the presence of US troops in the country would boost the maritime capabilities of the Philippines even without the need to acquire new military hardware.
“Maritime security and maritime domain awareness will be given a boost even before we have ships and aircraft that we need,” he said, enumerating the benefits of the rotational presence of US troops.
“Modernization can begin even before we are able to purchase the necessary defense systems,” del Rosario added. “Even before we have the advanced hardware we wish for, we will know how to operate and maintain them.”
The Philippines’ latest acquisitions of military hardware include the Navy ships BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Both are Hamilton class high endurance cutters that served the US Coast Guard since mid-1960s.
Both ships were acquired through the Excess Defense Articles and the Foreign Assistance Act of the US. The negotiations for the increased rotational presence of US troops highlights the country’s commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries, del Rosario said.
“For Philippine diplomacy, this raises our already deep and historic strategic relations with a key partner to even greater heights,” he said.
“By highlighting our treaty commitments under our Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, we serve to keep our region stable and secure,” del Rosario said.
He further said that the negotiations will be made as transparent as possible and that the interests of the Philippines will be protected.
“Transparency is extremely important in these negotiations. Our people need to know that our laws are observed and our interests are protected at all times,” del Rosario said.
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