Cabaero: Independence amid maritime tensions

SunStar Cabaero
SunStar Cabaero

The Philippines will mark the 126th year of its independence on June 12, 2024, amid stronger maritime presence of foreign nations in the country to address rising tensions with China at the West Philippine Sea.

On Wednesday, the 126th celebration of Philippine Independence Day, will also mark the observance of National Flag Day. The celebration will come at a time when the government of the United States, and of other countries will eventually join forces with the Philippines through marine drills in northern Luzon and Palawan.

The United States and other “like-minded nations,” as how some diplomats and analysts put it, are strengthening maritime presence here to help the Philippines prepare its response to China’s incursions into its waters. It’s not about foreign domination, which is what Independence Day put an end to, but about partnership and collaboration to protect our seas. China, on the other hand, is seen as the bully or the intruder who is water-cannoning its way into claiming what is ours.

The marine drills which opened last June 3 are part of annual exercises of the Philippine Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps. The overall activity is called the Marine Aviation Support Activity (Masa), which will end on June 21.

Aside from the sea exercises, there will also be air support drills to be part of the activity.

Brigadier General Romeo Racadio, Masa exercise director, said the drills were not meant to directly address specific tensions. “While the tensions in the West Philippine Sea are complex and require diplomatic and political solutions, our focus during these exercises is on honing our military capabilities and fostering closer cooperation with our allies,” he said in a statement.

The US may be only one of a few other nations that may also join the Philippines in maritime exercises. A forum in Manila by an international think tank had raised the need for “stronger partnerships with other like-minded nations” amid tensions with China, an Inquirer.net report on the event said.

Australia’s Acting Deputy Ambassador to the Philippines Johanna Stratton also said in that forum, “Australia is deeply concerned when countries pursue claims or engage in activities that are inconsistent with international law, when they undertake activities that are provocative and destabilizing, when they don’t respect the freedoms and rights of others, and when they advance their claims by intimidation or coercion.”

Prior to the Masa, there have been highly publicized military drills of Philippine and US soldiers that had as observers the officials from Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

This is the landscape as we mark Philippine independence. The significance of what happened 126 years ago, when the country declared its independence from Spain, remains as China threatens our territorial integrity and we welcome, if not compelled to accept due to our lack of capability, the offer of support from other nations.

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