The Chinese military’s war games in contested areas of the South China Sea is highly provocative and causes serious concern in the region’s security situation, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“That is very concerning, we view that with alarm,” said Lorenzana, referring to the five-day military exercises of Chinese military which demonstrates its capability to storm and seize an island.
The military exercise was held near the Paracel Islands which are being claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
“If they did it in their part of the South China Sea then it’s okay. But if they are doing in the contested areas then that will, you know, sound the alarm bells for all the claimants here in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea,” said Lorenzana.
China has been the most aggressive in terms of asserting its claims in the South China using the nine-dash line concept which was rejected by a United Nation’s arbitral tribunal in a case filed by the Aquino administration.
Based on the Department of National Defense (DND) data, almost 20 incidents of harassment against Filipino fishermen and Philippine military forces were recorded from August 2019 to early 2020 alone by Chinese military, Chinese Coast Guard, Chinese commercial fishing vessels and even Chinese militia.
Lorenzana said the Philippine government has been conducting military exercises with the United States but it done within the Philippine military. Earlier, President Duterte has cancelled his decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US reportedly due to the security situation in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte, it was recalled, took the lead in being friendly to China with critics accusing him of a sellout in exchange for big loans and assistance that mostly did not materialize.
“We have been doing exercises before with the Americans here in our territorial waters and I think that is okay,” said Lorenzana.
“The Chinese can do theirs in their territorial waters within their exclusive economic zone and I think that’s okay but if (they) do it here in the contested area, as I’ve said earlier, then that’s highly provocative,” he added.