Balikatan exercise 2015 and China’s military build-up in the South China Sea

balikatan-joint-military-exercise-6This year’s Philippine-US Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) military exercise is considered the largest, being participated by 11,000 soldiers (around 5,000 Filipinos and 6,000 Americans).

The exercise is an annual joint military event which seeks to improve the capability of the two countries’ forces to respond militarily to threats that include terrorists, pirates and smugglers, which could be summed up as maritime security threats, and as well as dealing with natural disasters.

It is also a time to showcase partly America’s newer military hardware with its awesome firepower.

Suffice to say that its primary aim is to maintain security and peace in the Asia Pacific region with the country being a party to the Mutual Defense Treaty Agreement with the US and the armed forces a beneficiary of a modernization program.

But, isn’t is ironic that while the Balikatan exercise is going on today, supposedly to prepare and enhance our bilateral capabilities in confronting and protecting the country’s sovereignty against internal and external threats, China is at the same time aggressively building up its military presence in the South China Sea, encroaching even now in areas which we think and deem our own?

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg expressed that through this bilateral exercise, current challenges being faced by the Asia Pacific region will be solved.

How?

What could be more brazen and menacing challenge to a third world country and the mightiest country in the world than China’s continuing reclamation projects in the South China Sea reaching now within the Philippines’ 200-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?

Not only is China purposely acting oblivious of the UNCLOS, but China is also flagrantly unmindful of what the US and other Western powers say about its all or nothing claim of the South China Sea.

And yet US Ambassador Philip Goldberg says that this exercise is the kind that will help maintain in Asia the freedom of aviation and navigation as well as the diplomacy in Asia Pacific region.

How could there be freedom of aviation and navigation in the South China Sea when one giant of a nation is dictating the demarcation of claims by sovereign states in the region and controlling the passage of planes and ships later?

It is affecting the livelihood of many Filipino fishermen in the area now.

Tomorrow it will be the people of the world who will be disadvantaged, unless the US and its powerful allies in the Western world will help put order in the South China Sea region.

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