Philippine Defense Minister Announces Military Deployment in West Philippine Sea for Resource Protection

Chinese Coast Guard ships used water cannons against Philippine boats in late 2023.
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  • 02:38 PM, January 24, 2024
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Philippine Defense Minister Announces Military Deployment in West Philippine Sea for Resource Protection
Reed Bank in the South China Sea @via Philippine media

Philippine Defense Minister Gilberto Teodoro declared on Wednesday that the country's armed forces would be deployed to safeguard the peaceful exploration and exploitation of natural resources within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

Teodoro, as reported by Reuters, stated, "We are evolving into a defense concept that projects our power into areas where we must, based on constitutional orders and obligations, protect and preserve our resources."

While the Philippines has long harbored plans to drill for oil and natural gas on Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea, no specific timeline for the realization of this plan was provided. Minister Teodoro emphasized the country's commitment to prioritizing peace while remaining resolute in defending its sovereignty.

"We are not the ones who encroach on other countries' maritime EEZs. The encroachers have a very wide sea area. We don't want fighting; we want peace, but it must be based on international law and sustainability," Teodoro asserted.

The move aims to assert Philippine sovereignty amid longstanding tensions with China over the West Philippine Sea, referred to by the Philippines as the South China Sea within its EEZ. The International Court of Arbitration invalidated China's dotted line claim in 2016.

The recent deployment of Chinese ships using water cannons against Philippine boats and the 2012 seizure of Scarborough Reef remain notable instances in the ongoing maritime dispute.

A recent meeting between representatives of the Philippines and China resulted in an agreement to enhance maritime communication to manage differences in the contested waters, which serve as crucial international trade routes.

Manila's military chief, Romeo Brawner, disclosed plans to develop islands and reefs in the South China Sea earlier this month, subject to contested claims by China, amid escalating tensions. The focus on territorial defense includes acquiring additional ships, radars, and aircraft.

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