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Philippine business groups deplore sea harassment

Philippine business groups deplore sea harassment
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) posted photos after the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) boarded Navy vessels near Ayungin Shoal, seizing firearms and injuring personnel on June 17, 2024. (Facebook / AFP)

Call for unity, modernization of AFP, PCG

MANILA, Philippines — Business organizations yesterday deplored the harassment of the country’s military, in a statement that came after a recent clash between Philippine Navy personnel and the Chinese coast guard in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

“We deplore the continued harassment of the AFP, the PCG and, most of all, our people who are just trying to earn their livelihood,” the business groups said in a rare joint statement, referring to the the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard by their acronyms.

There was no mention of China in the statement.

“We appeal for unity towards a non-violent resolution that respects our rights as a peace-loving nation,” the 17 business groups, including the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines, said.

“Since we need peace and security in building a stronger and more progressive Philippines, we call for a whole-of-nation approach in addressing the current threats to national sovereignty and security,” they said.

“We encourage the government to pursue with utmost urgency the necessary capacity-building measures that will successfully transform the AFP and the PCG into modern, responsive and self-reliant defense forces,” the groups added.

The group, composed of 17 business organizations including the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines, also urged the government to “pursue with utmost urgency” measures to transform the country’s military and coast guard into a modern self-reliant force. The other business organizations were Alyansa Agrikultura, Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, Cebu Business Club, Cebu Leads Foundation, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Phil) Inc.,  Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Institute of Corporate Directors, Investment House Association of the Philippines, Justice Reform Initiative, Nextgen Organization of Women Corporate Directors, People Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Women’s Economic Network, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation Inc. and Women’s Business Council Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has denounced as “illegal and aggressive” China’s actions during a routine resupply mission on Monday to a military outpost on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. The Chinese attempt to disrupt the resupply mission severely injured a Philippine Navy sailor and damaged vessels and equipment.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea as its own, infuriating neighboring countries. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 found China’s sweeping claims to have no legal basis, a ruling Beijing rejects.

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the business groups’ statement.

Not enough

With China appearing to be unmindful of the widespread condemnation of its aggressive acts, former Senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Philippines should now undertake more vigorously the modernization of the AFP and the PCG.

“Condemning China is no longer enough. We have seen in the released videos how our brave soldiers were mistreated and beaten, one of them even suffered a serious injury,” Zubiri said.

“Even with a large sector of the international community standing firmly behind us, China remains unfazed. They clearly intend to continue strong-arming their way into our territory and EEZ,” he added.

“Moving forward, our forces’ modernization program is the only way to go. Although we cannot match China’s strength, we can increase our force in patrolling the West Philippine Sea,” he pointed out.

The Senate, he said, had already allocated over P6 billion for the AFP and P2.8 billion for the PCG for this year. “We need to release these funds already and help our forces procure the vessels and defense materiel that they need to credibly protect themselves and defend our waters,” he said.

Zubiri maintained that modernizing the AFP and the PCG “has now become  imperative with the recent and brazen act of aggression and violence coming from the Chinese maritime authorities who continue to violate our territory and exclusive economic zone in the West Philippines Sea.”

The senator said the New Government Procurement Act – once approved – would further facilitate the acquisition of modern equipment by the military and the coast guard.

“We expect that its looming passage will help us fast track the purchase of much-needed equipment for our brave soldiers, who are risking their lives for the sovereignty of our beloved nation,” Zubiri said.

“The budget is ready, and the law is coming. I call on all government stakeholders to act with utmost urgency in setting our modernization plans into motion, so we can set up a stronger defense of the West Philippine Sea.”

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, for his part, voiced support for the proposal of Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino for the convening of the National Security Council to formulate potential responses to China’s provocations. But he admitted this could be difficult considering that the NSC is “a very large council.”

He said the nation should unite and continue to pursue diplomatic solution to the problem of China’s growing aggressiveness.

“No one wins in present situation. China doesn’t win. The Philippines doesn’t win,” Cayetano said at the closing ceremony of the Special Action Force (SAF) commando training course held at the SAF training Camp in Sta. Rosa City yesterday.

Transparency working

Meanwhile, the government’s “transparency strategy” appears to be “gaining traction” as more countries have become aware of China’s bullying tactics, PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela said on X.

“We have received greater support from like-minded states who are willing to assist us in our modernization efforts, including the enhancement of our military and coast guard capabilities,” Tarriela said.

“President Bongbong Marcos has inherited a nation from his predecessor that lacks information on China’s continued aggression, despite Duterte’s attempts to forge closer ties with Beijing. This situation has been worsened by the spread of fake news and misinformation,” he said.

“Additionally, it is challenging for him to seek support from the international community if we remain silent in the face of China’s bullying and aggression,” he explained.

Despite the release of photos and video recording of the violent disruption of last Monday’s resupply mission, China continues to insist Filipinos were to blame for the incident.

“The Philippine side has been calling white black and falsely accusing China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said in a statement yesterday.

“This is sheer provocation and has no justification whatsoever,” he said.

“Ren’ai Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Qundao and it is Chinese territory,” Lin said.

“The Philippine side illegally intruded the waters of Ren’ai Jiao without China’s permission, which violated international law and the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. This is sheer provocation and has no justification whatsoever,” he said.

— Louella Desiderio, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Michael Punongbayan, Pia Lee Brago, Cecille Suerte-Felipe, Ghio Ong, Ed Amoroso

Credit belongs to: www.philstar.com


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