Philippines’ lack of clear foreign policy causing WPS tension—foreign relations scholar

Philippines’ lack of clear foreign policy causing WPS tension—foreign relations scholar

TENSION flared again on June 17, 2024, in the disputed waters, particularly at Ayungin Shoal, following a humanitarian rotation and resupply operation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the rusting ship, BRP Sierra Madre.

As a result, Filipino soldiers were reportedly subjected to inhumane treatment by the Chinese Coast Guard, with one Philippine Navy personnel losing a finger.

After the incident, the Chinese Coast Guard was the first to issue a statement— saying that Filipinos violated the International Maritime Collision Avoidance Rules.

“On June 17, a replenishment ship from the Philippines illegally broke into the sea near Ren’ai Reef in China’s Nansha Islands, and the Chinese Coast Guard took control measures against the Philippine ship in accordance with the law.”

“The Philippine replenishment ship ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side, violated the International Maritime Collision Avoidance Rules, and deliberately approached the normal sailing ship of China in an unprofessional way, resulting in a collision. The responsibility lies entirely with the Philippines,” stated Chinese Coast Guard.

For the AFP, the actions of China were aggressive and barbaric.

“The China Coast Guard’s coercive, aggressive, and barbaric actions during the humanitarian rotation and resupply mission at BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on June 17, resulted in severe damage to AFP vessels, including their communication and navigation equipment,” according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The AFP further stated that China is the primary cause of tension in the area.

“The core issue remains the illegal presence and activities of China within our jurisdiction. The continued hostile behavior of the CCG is what escalates tensions in the area,” AFP added.

A few days after the incident, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said it was just a misunderstanding between China and the Philippines.

“No, well this was probably a misunderstanding or accident, we are not yet ready to classify this as an armed attack,” said Lucas Bersamin, Executive Secretary.

However, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro later contradicted this, stating it was not a misunderstanding and that China’s actions deliberately prevented the Philippine mission.

“The President has reiterated that we will not publish schedules of any RORE. We see the latest incident in Ayungin not as a misunderstanding or an accident. It is a deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission,” stressed Sec. Gilberto Teodoro, DND.

This has left some Filipinos confused about the Philippines’ stance on the matter.

In an interview with DZAR Sonshine Radio, international relations scholar Sass Rogando Sasot attributed the ongoing conflict in the South China Sea to the lack of a clear blueprint from the Philippine president.

“So now it seems that the architect of the foreign policy of the Philippines doesn’t have a clear blueprint. You know, if you have a blueprint, if you’re an architect, if you’re a good architect, then the engineer would be able to build a good bridge, a good building, a good structure and follow that blueprint,” according to Sass Rogando Sasot, International Relations Scholar.

She added that the lack of a clear plan from the President confuses the operations of those below him.

“So now we see that it seems that at the operations level, the engineers of the foreign policy are not following the blueprint. They are all different. So, for those who are religious, they are like the Tower of Babel. They no longer understand each other. We also do not understand them. “What do you really want? Do you want diplomacy?” Because you are saying different things,” added Sasot.

Sasot also questioned the media for giving airtime to a retired American army officer, whose statements seem to push for conflict.

“What is the goal of the US military? Is the US military a platform of diplomacy? No, right? The US military is a platform of war, isn’t it? So now, the US military wouldn’t like to de-escalate the situation because that’s their intention; their purpose would be lost. So, it’s no surprise why former IS Air Force officer Ray Powell said, “Be careful in its efforts to de-escalate,” she stated.

Another point of confusion that puzzled Sasot was the inclusion of an underwater specialist in the resupply mission, considering the stated purpose was simply to deliver supplies.

“There are many things we don’t understand about the RORE, and it would be better to dissect them. For example, I just learned that there were underwater operation specialists included. We thought it was a resupply mission, so why were there underwater operation specialists? What were the Navy’s underwater operation specialists doing?” she added.

It can be recalled that Senator Cynthia Villar previously said that to avoid conflict in the WPS, only the Coast Guard should go there and not the military.

Meanwhile, Sasot couldn’t help but compare the management of the previous resupply missions.

“So, during Admiral Carlos’ time, the resupply missions were successful. No one lost a finger.”

“Aren’t you mad about the New Model Agreement? Precisely, you should inform us, and only the Coast Guard should be there, not the Navy. That’s what Gibo wanted,” she added.

In the end, Sasot issued a challenge to the current leaders of our country if the Philippines opts not to engage in dialogue with China.

“That’s it. If you want to fight, then fight. If you don’t want to fight, then your words should not indicate fighting. This is very unclear. It’s very unclear,” she concluded.


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