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US urged to conduct ‘more frequent’ FON patrols in SCS, warn China on incursions

TO deter Chinese incursions into the Philippine maritime territories, a lawmaker on Wednesday urged the US to conduct “more frequent” freedom of navigation (FON) operations or patrols in the South China Sea (SCS), including the West Philippine Sea.

Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez made the appeal in reaction to a report of the US Navy that one of its carrier strike groups entered the South China Sea last April 4 amid strong protests from the Philippines on the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels in Juan Felipe Reef, which is within the Philippine 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Based on the report, Rodriguez said, the April 4 passage was the second by the US Navy this year.

“Two FON patrols in more than three months. They should criss-cross that area more often to challenge China’s claim over most of the South China Sea, including international waters and a large part of the Philippine EEZ,” Rodriguez said.

He said conducting more FON operations “is walking the talk on the part of our defense treaty ally, the US.”

“They should support their statements of support for the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute with actual actions on the ground,” he added.

The lawmaker said more SCS crossings could deter further Chinese incursions in the Philippine EEZ and threats to other US allies in the region.

“That would also show the readiness of the United States to come to the aid of the Philippines in case of conflict as provided under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries,” he added.

Rodriguez also called for stronger and more explicit statements on the WPS on the part of the US.

“Professions of support for Manila in very general language no longer suffice and are just being ignored by the party to which they are directed. There has to be a more direct statement or a warning that the other party will understand,” he said.

‘Demilitarize’

Meanwhile, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called on China and US to demilitarize SCS.

“China’s saber-rattling, through a threat of a ‘strong response’ against the Philippine military that protects the country’s  territorial rights at the West Philippine Sea, and, the evident increase of military presence by western powers, like the April 4 entry of the US Navy’s Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group [TRCSG], could further heighten tensions in the contested area in the South China Sea,” said Zarate.

“In this light we are calling for a complete demilitarization of the South China Sea amid the ramping up of  military and naval presence by China, US and other western powers in the disputed maritime region,” he added.

Zarate said while the “executive department should now take a more assertive stance against China’s expansionist moves, we also call on the House of Representative to register its collective voice against China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.”

“Congress should not stand idly by when there are infringement on our territory and sovereignty,” he added.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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