Expanding the US military presence in the bases of Phl

Yesterday, China’s continued intrusions into Philippine maritime jurisdiction in the Western Philippine Sea made headlines following a new incident that sparked strong protests and mixed responses. The title of this article read: “Chinese Ships Use Water Cannons Against Phl Supply Boats”.

On Tuesday, two large Chinese Coast Guard vessels stranded two small Philippine civilian vessels en route to transport food supplies to military personnel stationed on a grounded warship (the BRP Sierra Madre) serving as Ayungin’s outpost (Second Thomas ) Shoal. A third Chinese ship detonated the two Filipino ships with a water cannon, forcing them to turn back.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has lodged strong diplomatic protests with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Manila. The actions of the Chinese ships were illegal, he said: China “has no law enforcement rights in and around these areas …[and] must pay attention and step back. The supply of troops to Ayungin Shoal will continue, he said, adding: “We don’t need to ask permission to do what we need to do in our territory.”

But the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the actions of their ships as “in accordance with the law,” saying the Philippine ships had entered Chinese waters. Locsin said he reminded China that “a public ship is covered by the Philippines-US mutual defense treaty.” He was referring to former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s public pledge in March 2019 that any armed attack on the Philippine armed forces, public ships or planes in the South China Sea “would trigger the article IV of the MDT ”. This commitment has since been reiterated by senior US diplomatic and military officials.

While a number of senators – including Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Richard Gordon – supported Locsin’s diplomatic protest, they deemed it insufficient and called for stronger action.

Filing diplomatic protests against China may “not be enough anymore,” said Deputy House Minority Leader Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate. He also said President Duterte must demand justice through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and insist that China abide by the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling overturning China’s claim to the law of the sea. almost all of the South China Sea, including the WPS.

At least three presidential candidates in the May 9, 2022 elections weighed in on the issue, with various actions suggested.

• Senator Panfilo Lacson and his vice-presidential running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, called for a stronger response from the government. Lacson cited the need to forge alliances with “militarily strong” nations, noting that given its current military capability, the country will not win over China. Sotto urged invoking the relevant provisions of the 1951 RP-United States Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

• If he becomes president, the mayor of Manila Isko Moreno has said he will seek to strengthen defense agreements like the MDT and the visiting forces agreement of 1999. na Pilipinong of uniformed personnel ”, a- he declared.

• For her part, Vice President Leni Robredo called for a stronger position in asserting Philippine sovereignty to protect Filipino interests. “Our victory in the arbitration award is what we count on to be able to continue to protect what is ours,” she added.

Robredo revealed that she and her running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan met for three hours last Wednesday with former AFP generals, including two former chiefs of staff, to discuss key aspects of national security . “We are committed to continuing our consultation with them,” she underlined.

“The expert views of these respected generals and military strategists are greatly appreciated,” she said, “as we recognize that with both current and evolving threats we need an institutional approach, comprehensive and deliberate national security. “

Secretary Locsin’s invocation of the MDT, specific references to it by two presidential candidates – and a recent bilateral decision to expand the US military presence, US military installations and storage of war material to the inside Philippine military bases as part of the implementation of the treaty – should make the Mutual Defense Treaty a priority issue in the upcoming election campaign.

Without much ado, Filipino and US diplomatic and defense officials met in Washington DC last week (November 15-16), in what was billed as the 9th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, a biannual meeting that kicked off in 2011.

The two panels discussed cooperation in defense, economy, rule of law and regional diplomacy. They signed a joint vision statement for the 21st century U.S.-Philippines partnership that includes, among other things:

• In addition to resuming more than 300 military activities under the VFA in 2022, the Philippines allows the United States to construct facilities and pre-position defenses within Philippine military bases as part of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

While the United States already has “facilities” at four military bases, both panels say, “We intend to continue to implement infrastructure projects at the current EDCA and d ‘explore additional sites for further development. The four existing facilities are located inside Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Mactan-Benito Air Base in Cebu, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija .

• Negotiate an agreement governing the modalities of intelligence sharing and the proper joint use of equipment during military operations or combined training exercises.

• Promote the interoperability of the US and Philippine armed forces, including the establishment of a coordination center, the development of a joint command and control of operations and the finalization of the maritime “framework” to enable more efficient execution. joint operations.

Looking at all of this, one can surmise the likely increase in national security risk if a militarily powerful country viewed as an enemy by the United States chooses to launch a pre-emptive attack on American facilities inside Philippine bases (a prospect that President Duterte has said he dreads). And since American soldiers are present practically all year round, the old social ills brought about by their previous presence, such as the prostitution of women near bases, are likely to worsen.

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Posted in Philippine Star
November 20, 202

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