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Let's have peace, not war

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For two weeks, some 10,000 American and Filipino troops are holding their joint military exercises in land and at sea in the Philippines for two weeks. The two-week war drills called “Balikatan” which means shoulder-to-shoulder are made in the wake of the growing tension with China over its continued reclamation and threats in the South China Sea. China has even captured several islands and shoals in clear Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea like the Scarborough Shoal and Panatag Shoal, prompting Philippines authorities to raise the issue before the United Nations and the International Court.  

 

The war drills is bigger this year than in previous years with the participation of Australian and Japanese defense forces and observers from several countries, namely, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam, some of which have claims over islands and reefs in the region. Not only that – US Defense Secretary Ash Carter will be observing the war drills, especially the use of high weapons which will be used in the drills and the patrols on board US destroyers at sea.

 

Officials claim that the war drills are not connected in any way with the conflict with China, but observers still welcome the exercises as they could be considered a preparation for a possible armed confrontation in case China insists on its claims over the vast waters, once considered international waters where navigation was free for shippers and transport. No less than Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has been vocal against China’s capture of a big part of Philippine territory, has warned of a possible arms race and confrontation in the region in case the Philippines will be sustained by the United Nations and the International Court on its stand on the disputes.

 

Many are sad that the dispute with China widened under the Aquino administration which allowed wittingly or unwittingly China to reclaim many islands, reefs and shoals in the region and capture a big part of Philippine territory. Was this part of the well-publicized back-door negotiation with China made by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV under the aegis of Malacanang? Filipinos will not only be sad but sorry if military confrontation will be triggered as a result of China’s continued belligerence or insistence on its claims. Something solid must be done not only by the Philippines and the United States and other peace-loving nations to ease the tension in this regional flashpoint for a wider conflict that could lead to armed confrontation. Let’s have peace, not war!

 

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