After the incident at Ayungin Shoal last week, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Saturday, Nov. 20, said the United States (US) must “step in” and help the Philippines, as well as other Southeast Asian nations, deal with China over their territorial disputes.
He also emphasized the importance of having an independent foreign policy that will allow the country to stand up against China, similar to what it did during the time of the late former President Benigno Aquino III.
“Iyong (The) traditional ally like the US ay kailangan magstep-in kasi hindi kakayanin lang ito nung mga ASEAN countries (needs to step in because the ASEAN countries cannot manage it) individually and even collectively,” he said over dzRH radio.
ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations, wherein the Philippines is a founding member.
“Pero iyong ating foreign policy, kailangan talagang tumindig dahil ginawa naman iyan ng ibang bansa like Vietnam, like Indonesia. Hindi naman ginigiyera ng China (But our foreign policy really needs to take a stand because other countries like Vietnam, like Indonesia did that. China did not go into war because of it),” Trillanes added.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, Philippine officials said three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and fired water cannons on two Philippine boats transporting supplies to military personnel in Ayungin Shoal.
The Department of Foreign (DFA) protested the action, relaying its “outrage, condemnation, and protest” against what it called the “illegal” acts of the Chinese Coast Guard.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian maintained that the two Philippine supply boats “trespassed” into Chinese waters “without China’s consent”.
The Ayungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles (194 kilometers) west of the Palawan province in the Philippines, and is within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone or EEZ.
Trillanes stressed the importance of strengthening the alliance with Washington through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which President Duterte threatened to scrap but backtracked after negotiations, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
“So iyan iyong mga puwedeng tumulong (So, these can help),” Trillanes, a former Navy officer, said.
The former senator also wants the country to join freedom of navigation operations with Western powers and with neighboring allies like Japan and South Korean.
“Nang sa ganun itong area na ito ay hindi dadapaan ng China (In that case, China will not encroach on this area),” he said.
The US stood by the Philippines and warned Beijing over the aggressive actions.
Trillanes reiterated that the priority of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Navy (PN) right now is to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal.
He suggested sending Navy ships with helicopter-borne replenishment capability so they can send supplies to the ship.
Trillanes also said the country can do a “white-ships approach” through the Coast Guard.