The Philippines was urged Thursday to stand up to China’s continuing aggression in the West Philippine Sea at a forum that tackled Indo-Pacific maritime issues.
“We should not shy away every time they make threatening moves, and then we retreat for fear of provocation. There should be no gray area anymore. We need to begin erasing the gray zone,” Prof. Jay Batongbacal said.
“Let’s begin acting and standing up for our lawful maritime rights. That is the only way we can move forward. Otherwise, we might as well retreat and give up everything,” he added.
But the Philippine Coast Guard has been pushing the Philippines’ territorial sovereignty in the WPS, Commodore Jay Tarriola asserted.
Aside from patrolling the country’s territories in the WPS, including its exclusive economic zone, the PCG has been documenting China’s activities like its recent use of a strong laser against a PCG vessel, Tarriola said.
Also, the Department of Foreign Affairs has been protesting China’s activities in the WPS, including its posting of navy, coast guard and militia vessels in the Philippines’ EEZ.
Batongbacal and the forum organizer’s representative, Dindo Manhit, pressed for the holding by the Philippines of joint patrols in the WPS with like-minded states.
The United States and Japan have held talks with the Philippines on the possibility of holding joint patrols in the bodies of water contested by a number of nations.
“The Philippines and other Indo-Pacific states must engage in strategies that will ultimately change China’s behavior to be symbiotic with the internationally established rules-based order,” Manhit said.
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