DFA chief lauds PCGâs âserious patrollingâ in West Philippine Sea
“Use regular vessels please, iron hulls come well within the definition of a public vessel whose sinking triggers the mutual defense treaty clear as crystal,” Locsin said in response to a video of a patrol mission released by the PGC.

DFA chief lauds PCG’s ‘serious patrolling’ in West Philippine Sea

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - April 18, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. yesterday welcomed the “serious patrolling” being carried out by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the West Philippine Sea.

“Use regular vessels please, iron hulls come well within the definition of a public vessel whose sinking triggers the mutual defense treaty clear as crystal,” Locsin said in response to a video of a patrol mission released by the PGC.

The secretary was referring to the 1951 Phl-US Mutual Defense treaty, which states that the two countries will come to the defense of each other in case of an attack by another country.

Locsin said in a separate tweet that sinking the PCG vessels would trigger World War III under the terms of the decades-long treaty.

“Now we’re in business. Sink those and it triggers World War 3 under the terms of PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty. That could be the solution to the pandemic because the 7th Fleet alone has the puissance to end all life forms on the Asian mainland. Even cockroaches, I am assured,” Locsin said in his Twitter post.

The PCG released photos and videos of the patrol conducted in Philippine territory, including in and around Julian Felipe Reef where several Chinese vessels remain on standby.

Sought for details, PCG Commandant George Ursabia Jr. said only the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) is authorized to give “operational details.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been sending diplomatic protests to China over the presence of Chinese vessels at the reef.

On Wednesday, Locsin ordered the sending of a second diplomatic protest that day over the dispersal of Chinese ships to different areas within Philippine waters.

The secretary previously said that he would work on expanding the definition of what would trigger the country’s mutual defense treaty with the US, saying it is only logical to include civilians.

“I’m not being sarcastic. Seriously, what if Filipinos on a pleasure craft, one of the many yachts out there, crosses an invisible line drawn by China in Philippine water? What if they are fired upon or heaven forbid rammed?” he said in a tweet on April 10.

“Will work to expand definition of trigger to include civilian passenger craft which is only logical. It already includes cyber infrastructure which if monkeyed with is tantamount to an attack on Metropolitan Philippines,” he added.

The mutual defense treaty defined armed attack as those that target the “metropolitan territory of either of the parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

Earlier this month, the US State Department reiterated Washington’s commitment to the mutual defense treaty.

“As we have stated before, an armed attack against the Philippines armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Locsin also spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken where they “expressed their shared concerns with the massing of (Chinese) maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.”

China’s satellite

In a related development, Sen. Leila de Lima said the Philippines could become “another one of China’s satellites” if President Duterte and the military would continue to go easy on the Chinese unrelenting incursion in the West Philippine Sea.

De Lima, who – as justice department chief – was part of the Philippine delegation to The Hague who argued the Philippines’ arbitration case against China, expressed dismay at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s continued support for Duterte’s policy of appeasement toward China.

“While everyone in the world, including China’s own generals, are warning Xi Jinping that he is overstretching in confronting the US and the Philippines in the WPS, Taiwan in the Straits and Japan in the East China Sea, all at the same time and without any ally or friend whatsoever (except Duterte), the AFP still thinks it is worth it to continue to support Duterte’s policy of groveling before China,” she said.

“For some reason, the AFP has completely accepted the story being sold by local pro-China opportunists that the future of the country and the region lies with China as the sun supposedly sets on the American empire in the Pacific,” she added.

De Lima maintained that the fact cannot be changed that China remains alone in the world, as every western ally, from India to Europe and Australia, Japan and South Korea, is sending ships to the South China Sea to send a message to China.

“And that message is simply this: they will not allow China to invade Taiwan or take control of the South China Sea. That simply will never happen,” said De Lima.

While his defense and foreign secretaries have openly condemned China’s provocations, Duterte remains mum on the issue, with his spokesman Harry Roque reasoning out that the President preferred to pursue his “diplomatic initiatives” in private.

According to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), around 240 Chinese militia vessels – not mere fishing vessels as claimed by Chinese authorities – remained as of April 13 in the waters around Kalayaan town in Palawan or well within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The first 220 Chinese vessels around Julian Felipe Reef were spotted on March 7. The vessels later dispersed to cover a larger area in the West Philippine Sea.

De Lima also lamented how graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in the AFP seem to have forgotten their lessons on strategic thinking and are now bitterly confined to a parochial world-view of Duterte.

“Hopefully, with the end of Duterte next year, the AFP can immediately regain its shaky loyalty to the Republic, and that the damage Duterte has wreaked on the institution has not yet become irreversible,” she said.

“That might be wishful thinking, but we have no option but to rehabilitate this present general staff of the AFP because our country has only one AFP who will defend us against China. Either that, or we start accepting our fate in this region as just another one of China’s satellites after Laos and Cambodia,” she added.

De Lima said China has taken advantage of the country’s weakness amid the COVID-19 crisis and Duterte’s lack of concern on issues involving the West Philippine Sea. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Robertzon Ramirez

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