A direct confrontation between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is not likely at this point because of the involvement of many countries in the territorial row, experts said.
The possibility of a clash was one of the topics tackled during a series of meetings organized by the Philippines and an international think tank that put a spotlight on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, in particular probable scenarios and sensitivities that the government of President Rodrigo Duterte will face.
The Philippine delegation included businessmen belonging to the Philippine Trade Foundation Eminent Persons Group led by Philippines Inc. Chairman Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco and Dindo Manhit, president of local think tank Albert Del Rosario Institute (ADRi), which helped arrange the meetings with Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
“The discussions gave the members of the delegation a clearer perspective on the security issues in the Asia Pacific region, such as forecasts on how Chinese sentiment will evolve over time,” Manhit said.
“A direct confrontation with China does not appear likely at this point, a result of an increasingly united front by many countries regarding its claims in the disputed waters,” he said, citing the Philippines’ ongoing case at The Hague.
The delegation also had a meeting with Brigadier General Suzanne Vares-Lumof the US Pacific Command, who plays a key role in shaping and maintaining regiona6l security in the region through diplomatic and economic policies as well as military-to-military and politico-military relationships among the 43 Pacific nations.
With the proclamation of Duterte as the 16th Philippine president, the key to the US’ much-publicized Asia pivot is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), CSIS Director of the Southeast Asia Program Murray Hiebbert said.
He said EDCA can also be a framework for a new era of cooperation across the spectrum of the security operations in the Asia Pacific region.
With the situation in the West Philippine Sea continuously evolving, Duterte should remain apprised of every new development, whether they are from Manila, Beijing, or Washington, Manhit said.