Harris visit sends ‘clear signal’ amid SCS row

November 21, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 202 views

A MINDANAO lawmaker on Monday said the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris sends a “clear signal” to China that the United States (US) is supporting the Philippines in its territorial dispute with Beijing.

“We welcome Vice President Kamala Harris. We thank the United States for supporting our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in accordance with the International Arbitral Award in July 2016,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said before Harris arrived in Manila, a US official told the press that the visit would show the Biden administration’s “commitment to stand with our Philippine ally in upholding the rules-based international maritime order in the South China Sea [SCS], supporting maritime livelihoods and countering illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.”

That is consistent with the aspiration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to push for a code of conduct in the South China Sea (SCS), including the West Philippine Sea, which China should respect and abide by, he added.

Harris is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines. She is scheduled to travel to Palawan to meet with residents and local officials.

Before her, State Secretary Anthony Blinken was in Manila in August.

Blinken said the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines would kick in if a Philippine vessel or plane was attacked in the South China Sea.

“An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels and aircraft will invoke the US mutual defense commitments under that treaty. The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally to the United States,” he said.

Earlier, Rodriguez supported the call of President Marcos Jr. for a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

“A code of conduct is the way to go forward to peacefully and amicably resolve territorial disputes among countries in the region,” Rodriguez said.