Manila: The Philippines has called on concerned countries to build more structures to safeguard security, particularly in the South China Sea where overlapping claims have heightened tension in the region.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Herminio Coloma Jr told radio station dzRB the government is looking to cooperate with the United States in the face of China’s moves to gain more ground and establish more structures to solidify its claims over disputed islands.
“The two countries are continuously improving their relations and cooperation in order to respond to security concerns,” Coloma said.
Coloma emphasised both the Philippines and US were only seeking freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, but actions to emphasise these had only drawn adverse reaction from China.
To remedy this, Coloma said security infrastructure should be built within the region, while adhering to the international rule of law.
China raised protests when the US and Australia sent ships to disputed areas in the South China Sea to emphasise its resolve in preserving “freedom of navigation” in the area.
“Our response to these actions [by China] is to improve security infrastructures and establish the rule of law,” Coloma said.
Coloma did not mention any particular structure that the US and the Philippines plan to put up in disputed areas in the South China Sea.
China has constructed artificial islands and established airfields for fighter jets.
The presence of these Chinese airfields had upset the balance of power in the South China Sea and could allow Beijing to dominate islands and other territory in the sea. It is expected that the Philippines will respond to these actions by allowing the US to put up infrastructure and other military installations such as long-range radars for detecting hostile aircraft and ensuring freedom of navigation in Pagasa Island at the minimum.
The palace official said the US reiterated its commitment to remain an ally that will strengthen maritime security and maritime domain, including strengthening the country’s humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter visited the country at the end of the annual Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) force readiness exercises between American and Philippine forces last week.
“The US had expressed its continued commitment to the Philippines, as an ally, to establish and strengthen maritime security and maritime domain awareness capabilities and improved our capabilities for disaster response on the basis of the Mutual Defence Treaty of the two nations,” Coloma said.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other countries claiming islands in the South China Sea include Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.