US just a call away if PH needs help to ‘remove’ Chinese vessels in WPS — envoy

Published April 20, 2021, 7:06 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The United States is just waiting for the Philippines to ask for its help in removing or asking the Chinese vessels moored in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the top Filipino diplomat in Washington, D.C. said on Tuesday. 

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez

In a pre-recorded interview with Malacañang reporters, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said the militaries from both sides have been working “round the clock” to ensure there is freedom navigation amid the latest series of incursions of Chinese vessels in areas within the country’s EEZ.

“At the same time, the United States is obviously waiting for us to call them if we need their assistance in removing or asking the vessels that are parked in our area of responsibility or economic zone. And both our Philippine Navy and the US Navy are working on this,” Romualdez said when asked if Washington has any commitment to Manila to provide assistance in securing the West Philippine Sea. 

Early this month, a US aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea from the Strait of Malacca as the Philippines was protesting against the presence of more than 240 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef). 

The Philippines has filed several diplomatic protests against Beijing’s deployment of what many believed as “maritime militia” vessels in and around Julian Felipe Reef, an area located about 175 nautical miles of Bataraza town in Palawan.

On Monday, President Duterte said he would only send warships to “stake a claim” in the disputed West Philippine Sea if China would start mining for oil and other resources from the area.

“I am addressing myself to the Chinese government. We want to remain friends. We want to share whatever it is. I already told you, the Chinese government: I’m not so much interested now in fishing. I don’t think there’s enough fish really to quarrel about,” Duterte said in his regular “Talk to the People” address.