The Department of Foreign Affairs must broker updated security agreements with other countries to defend the Philippines from China's continuous aggression, Senator Risa Hontiveros.
“A security agreement can serve as a defensive framework that would provide for joint patrols and training of our troops so we are prepared to work as part of a team should tensions escalate,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Monday.
Hontiveros issued the remark after Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said during a security conference in Germany that the harassment of Filipino fishermen and Coast Guard personnel is a "daily situation that we face."
Manalo also called on the United Nations to help create greater awareness on the importance of upholding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and sustaining a rules-based order in Philippine seas.
Hontiveros said the Philippines should not only depend on its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States in protecting its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, pointing out that similar agreements can also be forged with other countries that want to maintain peace and stability in the region.
“China will not stop until we surrender the WPS, so we must also show her that we will never stand down,” the she said.
“Sa labang ito, nag-iisa ang Tsina, habang tayo, napakaraming kakampi [In this fight, China is alone but we are not]. Let us maximize the reinforcement of the international community and consolidate all this support once and for all,” Hontiveros added.
Apart from creating awareness, the senator said the Philippines also has to lead in taking tangible steps that can urgently help Filipinos who are directly affected by China's actions.
In early February, the Chinese coast guard pointed a military grade laser at a Philippine Coast Guard vessel, causing temporary blindness to some Filipino crew.
The DFA lodged a strongly-worded diplomatic protest against China after the incident but China has denied accusations of harassment, saying it used a rangefinder to measure its distance from the Philippine ship.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Philippines' allegation "does not reflect the truth.
The United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom have all expressed support for the Philippines and called out China's latest aggressive actions.
The Philippine Defense chief also discussed the issue with US counterpart Lloyd Austin III. —Hana Bordey/KBK, GMA Integrated News