Philippines, Japan are strategic partners’

(The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and Japan are strategic partners and are expected to work hand in hand in preserving peace and stability in the region, Malacañang said yesterday amid Beijing’s accusations that Manila and Tokyo were joining forces to attack China over the West Philippine Sea dispute.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Philippines and Japan have long been allies bound by various cooperation agreements, including some on defense and security.

He said that during President Aquino’s recent state visit to Japan, the Chief Executive and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even agreed to boost the two countries’ strategic partnership amid new challenges and realities, especially in ensuring peace as well as freedom of navigation and overflight in disputed seas.

Coloma also disputed China’s claim that it was not impeding freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, as he noted concerns raised by several nations and groupings over Beijing’s reclamation activities in disputed waters and in areas clearly within Philippine territory.

He said China must end not just its massive land reclamation, but its construction activities and other provocative moves in disputed areas.

The United States made the same call to China at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

While claiming that it had already stopped reclamation in disputed waters, China said it would commence construction on newly built artificial islands.

Coloma said the country’s strict adherence to the rule of law and peaceful resolution of maritime disputes has earned support from the international community.

China said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario “attacked” China’s South China Sea policy in collaboration with his Japanese counterpart during talks at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Japan has boosted security cooperation with the Philippines and other Asian countries at loggerheads with China over the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea issue.

Tokyo has no claims in the waterway, but is worried Beijing’s new islands will extend Chinese military reach into sea lanes through which much of Japan’s ship-borne trade passes. 

More help from Congress

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, urged his lawmaker colleagues to take advantage of their inter-parliamentary linkages with Beijing and other concerned states to help stop China’s encroachment on Philippine territory.

He also cited Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s efforts to support the Philippines’ case against China before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague. Belmonte was part of the high-level delegation that presented the Philippine case in The Hague last month.

“Our country must act as one and Congress is not without its means to also defend our sovereignty,” Gatchalian said. He emphasized, however, that whatever action Congress takes must be coordinated with concerned agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“This creeping invasion of China in the West Philippine Sea might create a domino effect. It is not farfetched that we may wake up one morning to find out that even Pag-Asa Island has fallen into Chinese hands,” he said.

Gatchalian filed last year House Resolution 2059, directing the committees on foreign affairs and on national defense to jointly probe what actions concerned authorities had taken on China’s massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

He said to further legitimize their claim to several islands in the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese government has opened many of these to tourists from China.

“Of course, making Chinese-occupied islands as tourist destinations is but a cover to their primary military agenda of transforming the West Philippine Sea into a ‘Chinese lake’ where they can do whatever they want, to the detriment of other claimant-countries like the Philippines,” he said.

“China can pursue its goal of becoming a world power without becoming a bully. Staying committed to the goal of ‘peaceful development’ means not depriving other countries’ patrimony and undermining peace and order in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, local and US-based groups are set to launch another anti-China rally outside the Chinese embassy in Makati City on Aug. 30.

The rally, to be spearheaded by the Movement and Alliance to Resist China’s Aggression (Marcha) of former Parañaque lawmaker Roilo Golez and the US-based Filipino-Advocacy Group represented by Eric Lachica, is intended to drum up support for the country’s position on the dispute and call the world’s attention to massive environmental destruction caused by China’s island building activities.

“We expect that other local and foreign groups will be joining our protest rally against China,” Golez said. 

With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations now speaking in one voice on the issue, Golez said he expects foreign nationals – particularly from ASEAN members-states – to take part in the rally.

Two groups from Vietnam joined an earlier protest rally organized by the group.

Golez said Marcha will also protest China’s dumping of cheap and substandard goods in the Philippines.

He also said China is the source of 90 percent of shabu being peddled across the Philippines. He said the trade in illegal substance from China has direct impact on Philippine society, especially among the youth.

Lachica, for his part, said there are better alternatives to Chinese-made products coming from other countries in the region like Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The group also hopes to bring up Beijing’s alleged interference in the Philippines’ political processes. China is reportedly giving support to local politicians who are supportive of its South China Sea expansion plans.  – Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero










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