Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez (AMML) says the Philippines should bolster maritime cooperation with Japan and the United States as it seeks to deter China’s growing assertiveness at sea.
In an interview in Tokyo, AMML said the Philippines is “not a military power” and is “very vulnerable to more incursions by China,” adding Manila needs the help of countries such as the United States and Japan to help resolve ongoing maritime problems.
“I’m rather alarmed at recent developments, especially after seeing photographs of some structures being built,” he said, referring to images of apparent land reclamation work by China under way at the contested Johnson Reef, a shoal it controls.
Given the limits of the Philippine military in resisting China, AMML said Manila needs to work closely with Washington and Tokyo and to draw on their strengths in maritime security. Japan pledged last year to provide the Philippines with 10 coast guard patrol ships.
Regarding the United States, an ally the Philippines shares with Japan, the ambassador said he hopes a new Washington-Manila defense cooperation pact signed in April will be a “deterrent to China” and make it “more difficult to bully” the Philippines.
Last month, a panel of security experts recommended that the government lift Japan’s self-imposed ban on engaging in collective self-defense, a move Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing hard.
AMML said he welcomes Abe’s stance on the issue and sees no problem in coming to the aid of an ally “if there is really a compelling reason to assist your neighbors.”
AMML also noted that Japan and the Philippines enjoy close economic ties. He said both sides can expect to benefit economically through increased tourism, helped by a growing number of flights between the two countries. (Excerpted from www.japantimes.co.jp)