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US interference in West Philippine Sea fiasco a show of ‘strong alliance’ – DND

Weeks after the continuous Chinese encroachment in Philippine waters, the defense department said the latest actions of the United States in the disputed seascapes affirmed the relationship of the Philippines and the US.

Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the admonition of the US against China in the South China Sea demonstrated “strength of alliance” with our long-time ally. 

“The US admonition to China against the use of force on Philippine public vessels and aircraft, which are performing their constitutional mandate to protect and defend Philippine rights in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, is an additional affirmation of the long-standing partnership between our two countries,” Andolong said in a statement. 

“This also demonstrates the strength of our alliance and mutual commitment to promote the rules-based international order,” he added. 

On Tuesday, April 6, the US Navy said the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) entered the South China Sea on April 4 to conduct operations. It was the second time the aircraft had entered the disputed seas since its operations in 2021. 

DND earlier said they affirmed the operations of the US aircraft as long as it will not create tension in the disputed territories. 

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) announced on March 21 it received reports from the Philippine Coast Guard that 220 Chinese vessels were spotted at Julian Felipe Reef. 

A day after, the Philippine military confirmed the Chinese presence in the area and said 183 Chinese vessels remained in the reef as of March 22. According to the March 29 maritime patrol of NTF-WPS, 44 Chinese ships remained moored and anchored in the reef. 

Meanwhile, DND spokesperson Andolong said they will “keep options open in managing the situation” and will remain in continuous talks with the US to uphold the mutual defense agreement to ensure the protection of Philippine sovereignty. 

“We are continuously in talks with the US on the matter of mutual defense. Both parties are committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states' inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively,” Andolong said. 

Earlier, the White House said the Philippines and US discussed their shared concerns over Chinese activities in the South China Sea in a call on March 31. 

The Philippines and US had signed the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951 to commit to defend each other in the event of an armed attack by a hostile party.

When the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of US military bases in the country in 1991, the VFA was crafted to ensure the continuous support of US troops. 

In January 2020, the US cancelled the visa of Senator dela Rosa over links to human rights violations, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to say he will "terminate" the VFA within a month if the US does not fix what it had done.

The VFA, up to now, remains in effect. – With reports from Michael Bueza/ Rappler.com