Pinoys back ‘dual approach’ in West Philippine Sea

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Pinoys back �dual approach� in West Philippine Sea
Handout photo shows an ‘enemy ship’ being hit by a missile from Philippine and US military forces during the Balikatan Exercises in Laoag, Ilocos Norte yesterday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines —  Filipinos continue to support a dual approach of diplomacy and military action in asserting the country’s territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea, according to a survey conducted by the OCTA Research group.

The survey, conducted from March 11 to 14 and released yesterday, showed seven in 10 respondents want the Marcos administration to prioritize both diplomacy and military action in addressing issues related to territorial dispute.

Some 73 percent said the government should assert the Philippines’ territorial rights by expanding naval patrols and troop presence, while 72 percent said the administration should prioritize diplomacy and other peaceful methods.

Meanwhile, some 68 percent said the government should modernize and strengthen the military’s capability to protect the country’s territories.

The total exceeded 100 percent because the respondents were allowed to select up to three answers.

Other responses included conducting joint maritime patrols and exercises with ally countries, with 43 percent; expanding diplomatic efforts with countries within and outside the region to reduce tension, 32 percent, and shelving disputes for joint economic development in the area, 12 percent.

Compared to last year, more Filipinos now support expanding naval patrols and troop presence in the region.

Only 65 percent supported the idea in similar surveys conducted in July and October 2023.

The figure increased to 72 percent in December 2023 and 73 percent in March 2024.

Those who urge the government to modernize the military increased from 61 percent in July 2023 to 68 percent in the latest survey.

Support for diplomacy approach hardly moved from 70 percent in July 2023 to 72 percent in March 2024.

‘Enemy ship’ sunk

Using the combined might of the Philippine and United States’ militaries working together under this year’s Balikatan exercises, a decommissioned tanker formerly known as the BRP Caliraya representing an enemy ship was sunk in the waters off Laoag, Ilocos Norte yesterday morning.

The Philippine Navy for the first time was able to use its LIG Nex 1 C-Star surface-to-surface anti-ship cruise missile to accurately hit the target, which also received aerial and artillery fire during the sinking exercise.

Commander John Percie Alcos, chief of the Naval Public Affairs Office, said the Navy was able to showcase cutting edge firepower during Balikatan’s maritime strike drill.

Alcos said two of the most modern platforms of the Navy took part in the sinking exercise, showing their precision strike capabilities using advanced missile systems.

He said the former Caliraya was the designated mock enemy target positioned off the west coast of Ilocos Norte.

One of the Navy’s fast attack interdiction crafts initiated the first strike, launching its NLOS (non-line of sight) missile.

The first attack was followed by BRP Jose Rizal (FF150) firing its C-Star surface-to-surface anti-ship missile with pinpoint accuracy.

Alcos said the missile strike was complemented by a variety of other naval and aerial assets participating in the simulated attack on the target ship, which highlighted the coordinated and multi-dimensional nature of modern naval warfare.  – Michael Punongbayan

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