Leftist lawmaker wants more troops, ships in West PH Sea
MANILA, Philippines – Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares is one of the most vocal critics of the military, but when it comes to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), count on him to support the military in the maritime row with China.
Colmenares called on President Benigno Aquino III to better fortify areas that the Philippines control in the volatile West Philippine Sea in the wake of photos showing China has begun reclaiming Mischief (Panganiban) Reef, too.
"We should defend our territory and exclusive economic zones and President Aquino should fortify our positions in the area to counter China’s aggressive acts,” Colmenares said.
Asked how he would advice Aquino to fortify the West Philippine Sea, Colmenares enumerated 3 ways to protect areas that the Philippines control:
- Deploy more troops
- Deploy more ships, including one Hamilton-class cutter, the warship the navy got from the United States Coast Guard
- Rehabilitate the airstrip in the Kalayaan Group of Islands
The Mischief Reef is inside the country's 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). China occupied it beginning 1995. (READ: PH fears 'miscalculation' in the West PH Sea)
It was occupied by China in 1995 when the Philippine Navy was not patrolling the area. It was one of the flashpoints in the volatile region that prompted the Philippines to ground a warship in nearby Ayungin Shoal to keep the Chinese from advancing.
The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published satellite images of the artificial land formations and structures in the Mischief Reef.
“All Filipinos should denounce this unjust and dangerous action to implement China's expansionist policy based on its 9-dash line theory, which is without legal, historical, and moral basis. We should defend our territory and exclusive economic zones and President Aquino should fortify our positions in the area to counter China’s aggressive acts,” Colmenares said.
He also called on the international community to help the Philippines against "foreign intervention. (READ: Obama: China's neighbors must not be 'elbowed aside')
Mischief is the latest reclamation activity of China in the West Philippine Sea. Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang earlier in the month showed photos of its other reclamation activities.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also gave the go signal to fix the runway in Pag-Asa Island, the second biggest island in the area that is under Philippine control.
The rehabilitation has been repeatedly delayed over concerns that it will affect the country's arbitration case against China's moves to change the status quo in the region.
"I believe we can safely argue that China's tactic is not to allow the tribunal jurisdiction over it so it can continue its predatory actions. Our actions are merely to discourage further aggressive acts to ensure peace in teh region and that would not be violative of our case before the tribunal," Colmenares said.
Bayan Muna also staged protest rallies against China in 2012 when its ships occupied the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off the coast of Zambales and deprived local fishermen of their livelihood.
But Bayan Muna is opposed to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a new military-to-military agreement between the US and the Philippines that was negotiated against the backdrop of Philippine request for US assistance in the maritime row with China. – Rappler.com
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