To ensure the success of the upcoming resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, the country’s military outpost at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, security and legal experts have suggested that it be carried out during joint patrols with foreign allies.
According to former Senior Associate Judge Antonio Carpio, the government should follow the example of Malaysia and Indonesia which, despite warnings from the Chinese Coast Guard, successfully conducted naval surveys and drills with the United States and Australia in their respective economic zones. EEZs in the South China Sea.
“We can have joint patrols with the US at the same time (like the upcoming resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal). We can gauge it,” Carpio, a staunch supporter of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), said Thursday at a forum hosted by the Stratbase ADR Institute in partnership with the US Institute of Peace.
“The Americans are there. They did the Malaysians and Indonesians a favor even without a defense treaty. And the Australians also did the same for Malaysia. Why are they doing this? Because they want to preserve the freedom of navigation… We can do all these things. It is up to us if we have the political will,” he added.
Carpio noted that if Indonesia and Malaysia were able to conduct joint drills without a Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, then the Philippines, which has one, can use the same strategy on its next resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre.
‘Do not provoke war’
For Stratbase president Dindo Manhit, the Philippines should not be deterred from sending supplies and upgrading BRP Sierra Madre.
“Our supply ships should really push forward… This is where we can maximize joint patrols and be led by allies and friends during resupply (mission). Not to provoke war but simply to exercise our own rights based on international law. Our military post is inside our EEZ,” he noted.
Leverage against China
Security expert and former US Air Force officer Colonel Raymond Powell agreed, saying one of the levers the Philippines could use when dealing with an “extremely large and aggressive country like China” was its association with like-minded allies.
Powell, who is also a fellow at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for Homeland Security Innovation, said Ayungin Shoal, including BRP Sierra Madre, was the “most vulnerable outpost” in the entire South China Sea and should reinforce.
“It is vulnerable not only because of how few people are there and their inability to defend themselves, but because of the fact that their outpost is deteriorating and will eventually succumb to time, weather and the elements,” he explained. “That will happen unless the Philippines and its US allies can find some other solution to repair or replace, lift, circumvent and somehow defeat the ongoing Chinese blockade.”
400 foreign ships
Noting the presence of more than 400 foreign vessels, mostly Chinese, in the country’s EEZ in WPS, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. stressed the need to continue with the program of military modernization so that it can deploy more assets in the area. “We need more ships, planes, air defense systems, and drones. We need a lot of boats and equipment. I hope the public and private sectors will help AFP in this regard,” said Brawner, who visited AFP’s Western Command (Wescom) headquarters in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on Thursday, just days after the Chinese coast guard fired water cannons against Philippine ships on Thursday. a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre.
At a press conference, AFP Wescom Chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said that of the around 400 foreign ships in the WPS, 340, or 85 percent, were Chinese ships, adding that only in the waters off Panganiban (Mischief) Reef: 250 kilometers. west of the Palawan mainland, there were already 191 foreign ships.
Brawner said additional funding was also needed to upgrade the other military facilities in the WPS to “strengthen our presence.”
As for the AFP’s plan to deploy its own maritime militia to boost the country’s presence in its EEZ, Brawner said this would depend on the funds available for the platforms or vessels, noting that reserve units have already been established for the deployment in the area.
“When we say reserve force, it is not just about land forces, so we are also trying to develop our reservists who will be able to operate at sea,” he told reporters on the sidelines of his visit. “It is already being implemented. We have established reserve units but we are going to wait for the platforms or the boats that will be used”.
“But definitely, we are going to go in that direction very soon,” Brawner said, adding that the AFP was also considering harnessing the fishermen as reservists to defend the country’s waters.
“We really have to establish our presence in the area. It’s a numbers game. Naturally, we cannot match China because we have fewer ships. We will definitely try to deploy more ships and fishing vessels,” she said.
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