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PHL to use info gathered by US surveillance plane in case vs China

FOREIGN Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said information gathered by the US P-3C “Orion” could be used by the Philippines in its arbitration case against China.

“It’s useful for us to be gathering this information which can be utilized for our arbitration case. I think to that extent, it might be useful,” del Rosario said.

He said the information provided by the American plane is of significant importance to the Philippines “because of our interest of what’s going on within our exclusive economic zone [EEZ] and our continental shelf.

“We want to know if there are any intrusions.”

Currently, a five-member panel of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) based in the Netherlands is hearing the case filed by the Philippines against China for intruding into the country’s EEZ and occupying islands that the country claims as part of its continental shelf.

This week the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that American P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft have been monitoring the South China Sea and the US is sharing the data that the aircraft gathered with Philippine military authorities.

A classified government document seen by Kyodo News on Friday confirmed that the US Navy surveillance planes conduct routine maritime patrols at the South China Sea, particularly in the contested Spratly Islands.

Del Rosario admitted that the surveillance plane had been patrolling the area even before he assumed office.

“I think this assistance had been there for a while since when I came to DFA. I have heard of P-3C Orion already being helpful in terms of bringing information of what’s going on in the area.”

He added that, “this is all part of the joint training exercises and the defense and security cooperation that we have with the US, which also includes providing facility for our treaty allies such as re-provisioning and refueling.”

Del Rosario said that it is not only the information from the surveillance plane that the Philippines have shared with the Americans but other forms as well.

He did not go into specifics.

Asked if the agreement does not compromise the Philippine position, del Rosario said: “I don’t think so, no, I don’t know what’s in store in terms of what else is coming from the US in terms of equipment, but we do have FMF [Foreign Military Financing] and I don’t have a list of what that might be, you may want to ask that from [Defense] Secretary [Voltaire] Gazmin.”

Del Rosario added that the Philippines has the initiative of reaching out to our international partners including the US, while Japan, through its official development assistance, has pledged to provide our Navy with 10 patrol boats.

The Philippines and China are locked in a dispute over some areas on the South China Sea, part of which the country renamed West Philippine Sea to delineate the limits of its EEZ and continental shelf.

China and Taiwan claim the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have overlapping claims over some areas, particularly in the Spratly Islands.

Del Rosario is scheduled to meet with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Phm Bình Minh on Thursday.

Although he said Vietnam has entered into an agreement with China, del Rosario said that the Philippines and Vietman will also discuss the extent of that agreement.

“I think Vietnam, like the Philippines, has challenges to address in terms of West Philippine Sea or South China Sea disputes.”

 

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