Americas News

PHL CUTS CHINA’S FLOATING BARRIERS, AIRS WARNING; US, Japan, PHL firm up plans for Indo Pacific at UN meeting

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA/NEW YORK -Tensions between the Philippines and China heightened anew after the Philippine Coast Guard, on order of President Ferdinand Marcos  Jr.,  cut the floating barriers China had installed at the Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, part of Zambales province and within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

This as the Philippines, the United States and Japan firmed up plans on the sideline of the United Nations meeting in New York to ensure a free and open navigation in Indo Pacific.

The Philippines and US, meanwhile, readied for new joint warfare drills off Sorsogon and Catanduanes province alongside their allies, including Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, France,  Indonesia and New Zealand which opens next seek with over 2,000 troops.

China installed the floating barriers in efforts to blockade fishermen, Filipino vessels and the Philippine Coast Guard.

The floating barriers were cut during a special operation by the PCG upon orders of President Marcos  to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.
China immediately chided the Philippines for its action,  claiming that it is provoking Beijing.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro answered back and slammed  China’s message to the Philippine government to not “stir up trouble” in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s foreign ministry had advised the Philippines to not make provocations in the disputed area, a day after the Philippine Coast Guard removed a floating barrier installed by Beijing in Bajo de Masinloc.
The Armed Forces  Western Command, meanwhile, said floating barriers near the Ayungin Shoal would also be immediately removed if these are placed there by China.

“So there is already a template in Scarborough (Bajo De Masinloc) so there is no question about that, if they do that in Ayungin we also have to remove the barriers and we do not have to wait for the order of the President to remove that,” the WestComn chief said.

Philippine officials strongly condemned China for installing last week a 300-meter (980-foot) -long barrier through the Chinese coast guard vessels at the entrance to the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal as a violation of international law and the country’s sovereignty.

The barrier has prevented a swarm of Filipino boats from entering the rich fishing area, they said. The shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone just west of the main Luzon Island, but has been occupied by China since 2012 as part of a push by Beijing to lay claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.

At the United Nations, the Philippines, United States and Japan firmed up their commitment to work for a free and open Indo-Pacific and ensure peaceful resolution of disputes, according US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Our alliance with Japan and the Philippines is a cornerstone of our Indo-Pacific strategy. Together, we are committed to promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, ensuring the peaceful resolution of disputes, and upholding international law,” Blinken said at the Second Trilateral Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The meeting, hosted by the US, was  participated by the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Japan Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa.

Reports from New York stated that the meeting underscored the shared dedication of the three nations to fostering regional stability, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. It served as an opportunity for high-level discussions on regional cooperation and the pressing challenges facing the region.

Kamikawa emphasized the need for cooperation in the face of complex regional dynamics.

“The Indo-Pacific region is pivotal to global peace and stability. Our trilateral partnership allows us to address emerging challenges effectively and strengthen our ties,” he said.

Manalo echoed these sentiments, highlighting the shared objectives of the three nations.

“The Philippines values its strong relationships with both the United States and Japan. Our cooperation extends to a wide range of areas, including security, trade, and development, all aimed at fostering regional prosperity,” Manalo said.

The three officials reaffirmed their commitment to promoting peace and stability in the South and East China Seas. They emphasized their shared values of freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights.
The trilateral meeting follows a series of high-level interactions, including a September meeting between US Vice President Kamala Harris, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a July trilateral meeting in Jakarta, and a June meeting in Tokyo.

In his address, Blinken said the three countries saw eye-to-eye on the strengthening of ties in a bid to maintain peace and stability in the region.

“I think all three countries believe strongly that our collaboration, not only on a bilateral basis but on a trilateral basis, can produce very positive benefits not only for our countries but also for other countries and partners in the region and beyond,” Blinken said.

The Philippine Navy (PN)’s warfare capabilities are expected to get a boost in a two-week drill with its US Navy (USN) counterparts, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

Lt. Col. Enrico Gil Ileto, AFP public affairs office chief, said this year’s “Exercise Samasama” slated from Oct. 2 to 12 would be held at the Naval Forces Southern Luzon area of operations, with the opening rites at the PN headquarters in Naval Station Jose Andrada in Manila.

“‘Samasama’ is a bilateral exercise between the USN and the PN that aims to further strengthen international defense cooperation and advance a rules-based international order,” he said in a statement.

Ileto said these naval activities are designed to further enhance the PN’s naval warfare capabilities, including the fundamentals of anti-submarine, anti-surface, anti-air and electronic warfare.

These capabilities are now being provided by the two Jose Rizal-class missile frigates, the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), which are considered the PN’s most modern warships to date and were delivered in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Interoperability exercises with the USN will focus on warfighting serials, he added.

“The training will also strive to further improve maritime integration and combined interoperability with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), and the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy (RN) through subject-matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) and humanitarian assistance and disaster response table-top events,” Ileto said.

He said the French Navy and RAN will send personnel to join the SMEEs while the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and Indonesian Navy would join as observers.

Participating personnel for “Exercise Samasama” include 733 from the PN; 632 from the USN; 244 from the RCN; 169 from the JMSDF; 34 from the RN; seven from the French Navy; three from the RAN, two from the Indonesian Navy and one from the RNZN.

Meanwhile, participating ships include the BRP Antonio Luna from the PN, the USS Dewey and USNS Wally Schirra of the USN, the RN’s HMS Spey, RCN’s HMCS Vancuver, and the JMSDF’s JS Akebono.