Palace: PH, Japan strategic partners on peace, security

MANILA, Philippines – Reacting to reports that China had accused the Philippines of conniving with Japan over the West Philippine Sea dispute, government said on Saturday, August 8, that the Philippines and Japan – being strategic partners – would naturally cooperate on peace and security concerns in the region.

"Dapat kilalanin ‘yung reyalidad na ang Pilipinas at ang Japan ay tumatayong strategic partners. Mayroon tayong kasunduan sa kanila sa larangan ng kabuhayan, sa larangan ng seguridad, at sila ay strategic partner nga po ng ating bansa," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr said in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan. (READ: US, Japan exercises and China's anxiety)

(The reality that the Philippines and Japan are strategic partners should be recognized. We have agreements with them when it comes to livelihood and security; they are our strategic partner.)

The two allies had signed a joint declaration during President Benigno Aquino III's state visit to Japan in June. It was meant to "reaffirm their strong commitment to ensuring maritime safety and security, including in the South China Sea, which is a vital element for peace and prosperity of the region."

In June, the Philippines and Japan conducted military training exercises off the coast of Palawan. (READ: Japan, PH navies fly together for the first time)

Coloma also reiterated calls for China to end land reclamation and construction activities in the disputed areas to avoid escalating tensions. 

Freedom of navigation

Reuters report said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the ASEAN Regional Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, August 6, Beijing was not impeding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

This was in apparent reaction to US Secretary of State John Kerry's statement on the same day that the US will not tolerate navigation restrictions in the disputed waters.

Kerry said, "Let me be clear: The United States will not accept restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight, or other lawful uses of the sea. These are intrinsic rights that we all share."

He also "urged all claimants to make a joint commitment to halt further land reclamation and construction of new facilities or militarization on disputed features," arguing that this would "lower tensions." 

Coloma refuted China's claim that it is not impeding freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, noting the concerns expressed – not only by the Philippines, but also by other members of the international community – about China's reclamation activities.

"[A]ng panawagan na ito ay umaani ng suporta dahil nakikita naman ng mga bansang naniniwala sa rule of law na ito ay makatuwiran," Coloma said. (This call is earning support because other countries who believe in the rule of law see it as justified.) – Rappler.com