House deputy speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday, April 7, urged the United States to conduct more frequent patrols in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, to deter Chinese incursions in the area.
Rodriguez said allowing the US to conduct freedom of navigation (FON) operations or patrols in the controversial maritime areas would also show US’ readiness to come to the aid of the Philippines in case of conflict as provided under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries.
“Conducting more FON operations is walking the talk on the part of our defense treaty ally, the US,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
“They should support their statements of support for the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute with actual actions on the ground,” he stressed.
Rodriguez made the call following reports of the US Navy that one of its carrier strike groups entered the South China Sea last April 4 amid the Philippines’ protest of the swarming of Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef.
The lawmaker noted the April 4 passage was the second by the US Navy this year.
“Two FON patrols in more than three months. They should crisscross that area more often to challenge China’s claim over most of the South China Sea, including international waters and a large part of the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” he stressed.
Earlier, the US backed the Philippines call and shared its concern over the presence of Chinese ships in the Julian Felipe Reef believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia.
“We share the concerns of our Philippine allies. We stand by the Philippines, our oldest treaty ally in Asia,” a spokesperson of the US embassy had said last March 23.
The US embassy also said it took note of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s call for the Peoples’ Republic of China to recall the boats and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. ‘s filing of a diplomatic protest.
Rodriguez, however, said he hopes to hear stronger and more explicit statements from the US regarding the West Philippine Sea issue.
“Professions of support for Manila in very general language no longer suffice and are just being ignored by the party to which they are directed,” the solon lamented.
“There has to be a more direct statement or a warning that the other party will understand,” Rodriguez emphasized.