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Provocative? NSC maintains PH-US drills done inside WPS

The National Security Council (NSC) on Friday called out China for describing the recent maritime patrol of the Philippines and the US in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as "provocative military actions." 

In a statement, the NSC emphasized that the drills were done within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines and were done "consistent with international law."

“The Philippines is merely exercising its sovereign right to engage in such activities within its territory and these exercises are aimed at enhancing our maritime capabilities and interoperability with the US which is a treaty partner to ensure the security and stability of the region,” said National Security Adviser Eduardo Año.

“The joint patrol emphasizes our ability to work seamlessly together to ensure the readiness of our joint forces to address evolving security challenges,” Año added. 

The NSC chief also said the maritime activity showed the Philippines and its allies’ “mutual commitment to a rules-based international order and for promoting peace and stability of the region.”

“It also demonstrates the significant improvement in the Philippines' defense capabilities and the development of a world-class navy and armed forces capable of carrying out its mandate to defend the territorial integrity of the Philippines and our maritime rights in the WPS,” said Año.

The Philippine government will remain open to diplomatic discussion with China, as it believes the countries can reach resolutions through peaceful dialogue and adherence to international law, he added.

On Thursday, the Philippines and the US concluded their two-day patrol exercises in the WPS. This is the countries’ second joint maritime activity in the disputed territory. 

During the last day of the maritime cooperative activity, the US deployed several fighter planes, warships, and an aircraft carrier while the Philippines sent out BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, and an AW109 helicopter. 

China earlier slammed the US and Philippines drills in the WPS as “provocative” and "irresponsible."

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the exercises were "detrimental to management and control of the maritime situation and related disputes."

"We urge relevant countries to stop their irresponsible actions and earnestly respect the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," he said.

China claims most of the SCS, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines and other countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. 

An international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China's claim in a ruling on a case brought by the Philippines. Beijing has refused to acknowledge the decision. —Sundy Locus/ VAL, GMA Integrated News