MANILA, Philippines — US troops in South China Sea? No problem.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Manila would not oppose Washington’s presence in the South China Sea – as Beijing admitted deploying military and weapons there – if it would promote peace and stability in the disputed area.
“The Philippines would want stability in this part of the world, in that part of the world,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.
“The Philippines position is that every country has the right to use the waters in the South China Sea as well as the air space and we want peace and quiet in that area. So anything that will provide such kind of atmosphere, we are for it.”
“If the presence of the US will make it so, then that’s good for all of us, all of the claimants,” he added.
A US Navy hover craft speeds past the USS Wasp, US Navy multipurpose amphibious assault ship, during the amphibious landing exercises as part of the annual joint US-Philippines military exercise on the shores of San Antonio town, facing the South China sea, Zambales province on April 11, 2019. (Photo by TED ALJIBE / AFP)
US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in a security forum in Singapore recently said Washington would not ignore China’s aggression in the South China Sea especially after Gen. Wei Fenghe, China’s minister of national defense, admitted that Beijing has been deploying troops and weapons in the disputed ocean.
Panelo said the Philippines would only object if US troops enters Philippine waters without Manila’s permission.
“Of course they will need to ask permission from us,” he noted.
But, Panelo said, as far as the South China Sea is concerned every nation has the right to pass through it.
Panelo said it was no surprise that Shanahan issued such statement although the Palace official noted: “They have been saying that. But they are not doing it. It seems like what is happening is just posturing,” he said.
US presence at the South China Sea has angered China, which asserts sweeping claims over it.
“We will let the giants do their thing,” Panelo said referring to US and China.