THE Philippine government “welcomed” the latest statement of support from US officials that their military stand ready to thwart threats in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that is being claimed in whole or in part by China and smaller countries like the Philippines.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in an interview on Sunday cited the enormous help given by the US government in rehabilitating areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda in late 2013.
Coloma was reacting to a statement made by Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, that they are ready to respond to threats against security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region in the face of China’s undisputed land reclamation in disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Harris said rebalance of US military presence in the region aims to focus 60 percent of naval strength there by 2020.
He, however, clarified that he does not intend to foment war but “lessen the chances of conflict.”
The US military official described China’s movements as “provocative,” with Beijng tightening its grip on most of the sea and its coral reefs, rocks and sandbars amid competing claims by the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries.
Harris said unprecedented land reclamations being done by China have drawn much concern, noting that submerged reefs in the Spratlys, for example, have been turned into artificial islands with buildings, wharves and runways.
Coloma said Harris’ view that a Code of Conduct governing the South China Sea should be adopted must also be supported, noting that no less than President Benigno Aquino 3rd has been pushing for it among countries with claims in the contested waters.
Manila has a standing “memorial’ before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea questioning China’s sweeping nine-dash line policy to support its “historical” claims in the West Philippine Sea.