If the United States and the Philippines are now talking about joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, what’s wrong with it?
Beijing would, of course, raise a howl and say that would be an escalation of the prevailing tension in the South China Sea that it claims almost wholly on the basis of historical right.
But the United States would, on the other hand, insist that the South China Sea cannot be claimed by China as the “nine-dash-line” is pure fiction and should be open to all nations who want to navigate the route for global trade.
US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said combined maritime activities between the Philippines and the US are vital to enhance the country’s safety and security.
“So many fisherfolks have their lives wrapped up in fishing so the United States wants to do everything possible. There is an array of activities we can do. We are certainly working very closely with the Philippine Coast Guard in that regard,” according to Ambassador Carlson.
“So whether it’s joint patrol or any activities…the important thing is it is done in conjunction with our Philippine partners,” she added.
Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez says as much, with serious talks on the joint patrol concept are “on the table.”
He revealed that “more activities as far as our defense cooperation with the US is concerned” will materialize in the next months, with enhanced patrols in the West Philippine Sea “as part of the program and we are going to have these fairly quickly…We have our joint exercises so joint patrols [are] also part and parcel of that agreement that we have with the United States.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs is absolutely correct in declaring that Filipino fishers who were driven away by Chinese coast guard vessels from the Philippine-occupied Ayungin Shoal have the right to fish in the area and “take whatever they are due” according to Philippine and international law.
Ayungin Shoal is part of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf.
We are entitled to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the area without any intervention from another country.
It would appear that the DFA has yet to receive official reports from the military on the China Coast Guard’s actions to force Filipino fishers to leave the Ayungin Shoal last week.
The reports will serve as the basis for diplomatic action, including notes verbale to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Philippines and the United States have every right to conduct joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea under the terms of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and succeeding security arrangements.
This is part and parcel of our independent foreign policy under the 1987 Constitution.