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PH won’t be military action ‘staging post’ — Marcos

May 1, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 173 views

THE Philippines will not be used as a “staging post” for any military action amid tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Sunday.

Marcos gave the assurance in an interview with the press en route to Washington, D.C. for an official visit, as he maintained that the Philippines continuously “works for peace”.

“Simple lang ang goal natin sa Pilipinas , we work for peace… We’ll not encourage any provocative action by any country that involves, that will involve the… provocative action that will involve the Philippines by any other country. We will not allow that to happen,” Marcos said.

One of his agenda for the US visit is to tackle the “evolving” Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and its longstanding ally, the United States.

The best move for the Philippines, he said, is to stay within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as the bloc plays a crucial role in “keeping peace” and “lowering tensions in our area”.

DIRECT COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MANILA, BEIJING

Meanwhile, Marcos called for the final adoption of a Philippines-China “direct communication line” after Chinese and Philippine ships came close to a collision in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is the kind of thing that… we’re hoping to avoid, that this time it was a little more dangerous because malapit na sila eh (they’re so close),” said the President. “Talagang kamuntik na nagbanggaan and that will cause a great many… that can cause casualties on both sides.”

Two Chinese Coast Guard vessels “intercepted” Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal, exhibiting “aggressive tactics” towards BRP Malapascua and Malabrigo, respectively on April 23.

The Chinese vessel carried out “dangerous maneuvers” coming within 50 yards of Malapascua, which a team from Agence France-Presse aboard the Filipino boat said resulted in a “near-collision.”

Similar maneuvers were documented on April 19, involving CCG 5201 and 4202, and the BRP Malapascua while the latter was en route to Ayungin Shoal, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Marcos stressed the need to establish a “high-level” communication mechanism with Beijing to reduce misunderstandings.

“Hindi pa natin nabubuo,” he said.

The Philippines has created a team and has “submitted the names, even the telephone numbers of these people”, according to Marcos.

Both Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier affirmed the establishment of a “direct communication mechanism” during the Filipino leader’s official state visit to Beijing in January.

While the overall priority is safeguarding maritime security, Marcos said China has agreed to “sit down” and talk about Filipinos’ fishing rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Marcos has directed the Coast Guard and the Department of Foreign Affairs to put together a map of these fishing grounds and present it during the discussion.

“Sasabihin natin, ito Pilipinas talaga ito (We’ll say that this is the Philippines) and we’ll see what they say when we give them our proposal,” Marcos said.

RECALL CHINA ENVOY — SOLON

A House leader has urged President Marcos to recall the country’s ambassador to Beijing as a show of protest and displeasure over the “David vs Goliath” near-collision of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) patrol with a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel.

House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chair Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez aside from the usual filing of a diplomatic note, we should order our principal representative in China to return home.

“He should not go back to Beijing until we receive a response from the Chinese government apologizing for their harassment and bullying tactics in the West Philippine Sea and committing to rectify their misconduct,” he said.

The country’s ambassador to Beijing is Jaime Flor Cruz, a former journalist who covered China for many years for American news organizations.

Rodriguez said the Philippines has filed hundreds of protest notes with Beijing over China’s aggressive and bullying activities.

In 2022 alone, 193 protest notes were served on Beijing, including 65 by the Marcos administration, he said.

“All these protests fell on deaf ears. That is why they continue to harass and bully our Coast Guard patrols and our fishermen, from the northern part of our country in Pangasinan and Zambales to the south in Palawan,” he added.

The Mindanao lawmaker also lauded the reaction of the United States to the recent near-collision incident, which happened in the Ayungin Shoal area, where a small contingent of Filipino soldiers is stationed in an old, rusting Navy ship.

He described the encounter as one between David and Goliath. The CCG vessel is more than twice the 144-feet Malapascua.

Rodriguez said Beijing insulted the Filipinos’ intelligence by blaming the near-collision on the PCG personnel. Philippine News Agency, Jester Manalastas