MANILA – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday debunked China's claim that joint exercises between the Philippines and the United States only creates trouble and undermines regional peace and stability in the West Philippine Seas (WPS).
Hontiveros said on the contrary, it was China who stirred up trouble by harassing the Philippines’ vessels and creating artificial islands within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“It has always been China who stirs up trouble in the West Philippine Sea, not the Philippines. Our country should be free to patrol our waters with whomever we choose, whenever we want. This is our right as a sovereign nation” Hontiveros said in a statement.
In a media interview, Hontiveros cited the case of Chinese vessel gaslighting, water cannons and even ramming the Philippines’ vessels.
“Who are dredging our Philippine sea bed to create artificial islands within our exclusive economic zone, militarize them and then use them to claim that our territory is theirs? Who's stirring up trouble? Who's harassing our vessels and preventing them from resupplying our people on the BRP Sierra Madre; it's not us, so to now accuse us of what they're doing, that's like double gaslighting right there,” she said.
Hontiveros added that as an advocate of multilateralism in foreign relations, she has long called for joint patrols with other nations, not just the US.
Aside from the US, the Philippines also has joint maritime exercises with Japan, Australia, India, and other naval powers who are committed to a rules-based order in the WPS and the entire South China Sea.
“China, however, wants to stop us from engaging with our allies because she knows she cannot prevail against a coalition. If she has a problem with our presence in our own waters, she is more than welcome to leave,” she said.
She added that the bigger coalition means a better coalition that will uphold freedom of navigation. (PNA)