'Foreign alliances important in sea row with China'
MANILA, Philippines – Security experts emphasized the importance of the country's foreign alliances in its maritime dispute with China on Philippine Independence Day, June 12.
Rafael Alunan III, head convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition and former interior secretary; and Di Ka Pasisiil Movement head and former Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez made the statement at an anti-China rally organized by civil society groups.
Chanting “China, go away!” an estimated 400 people from various groups converged in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati to protest the Asian superpower’s reclamation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The groups included the West Philippine Sea Coalition, Di Ka Pasisiil Movement, and Martsa Para sa Kalayaan Network
Satellite images in early 2015 revealed China’s expanded construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters.
Alunan said the Philippines should welcome the support of allies in the regional maritime dispute.
The Philippines and Japan are set to begin discussions on a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is expected to allow Japanese access to military bases in the Philippines. The Philippines has VFAs with the US and Australia.
Golez expressed support for such military agreements as China grows “more aggressive.” He said that sending foreign forces away would make it “easier for China to swallow us.”
Weak defense posture, strong legal case
Both Alunan and Golez agree that this vulnerability lies primarily in the country’s weak defense posture. “It takes 10 to 15 years to do [build credible deterrence], and we have to have a sense of urgency,” Alunan said.
The Philippines is ranked 40th in terms of military strength in Global Firepower’s 2015 Power Index; China is 3rd.
Golez, a former national security adviser, deemed necessary alliances with Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, and the US until the Armed Forces of the Philippines receives enough funding for its modernization.
Although dwarfed in terms of military power, the Philippines has a strong case against China in the legal arena, both advocates believe.
The Philippines filed a case over the disputed waters with the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague, The Nethelands, in 2013. The Philippines argues that China’s 9-dash line is groundless under international law, an argument that Vietnam supports.
Alunan said that some land masses being claimed by China are owned neither by China nor the Philippines. (READ: What's stake in our case vs China)
“They are owned by the world as part of the global commons, and [no one has] business trying to control that,” according to Alunan. – Rappler.com