Solon calls for joint RP-US naval war games as China plans to occupy more areas in West PH Sea

Published April 9, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel on Friday called for joint naval war games between the Philippines and the United States, and the signing of a new “Manila Declaration”, strongly renewing the allegiance of the two countries to the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

“We should have another Manila Declaration, considering China’s plan to occupy more areas in the West Philippine Sea that are clearly within our 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone,” Pimentel, House Strategic Intelligence Committee chairperson, said on Friday, April 8, which was also ‘’Araw ng Kagitingan’’.

In the Senate, the MDT is an untapped weapon in the arsenal of the Philippines to prevent our fish within the RP Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) from being stolen, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense, said.

“We can have the new declaration signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan,” Pimentel said, referring to the flagship of the U.S. Navy’s carrier strike group based in Yokosuka, Japan.

Ten years ago, the Philippines and the U.S. signed the Manila Declaration, which reaffirmed their commitment to the treaty that binds the two countries to support and defend each other militarily.

The 2011 declaration was signed by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the deck of the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald docked in Manila.

Pimentel, a backer of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), also pushed for the conduct of joint naval exercises between the Philippines and the U.S. “to improve coordination between our warships.”

“We should have annual training maneuvers to enhance the capabilities of our new Rizal class guided missile frigates and AW159 Wildcat naval choppers,” Pimentel said.

“The regular drills will also heighten the maritime domain awareness of our naval commanders as well as the interoperability of our combat ships,” Pimentel said.

US President Joe Biden, in his first major foreign policy speech in February, called America’s alliances around the world its “greatest asset” and vowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with partners.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III had also reiterated America’s commitment to the 70-year-old MDT and the VFA in an introductory phone conversation with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.