Philip­pines seeks help from the US to pro­tect its troops in dis­puted sea

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JIM GOMEZ

The Philip­pine de­fense chief said he asked the vis­it­ing U.S. Pa­cific com­man­der on Wed­nes­day to help pro­tect the trans­port of Filipino troops and sup­plies to Philip­pi­neoc­cu­pied reefs in the dis­puted South China Sea by de­ploy­ing Amer­i­can pa­trol planes to dis­cour­age main­land Chi­nese moves to block the re­sup­ply mis­sions.

The Philip­pines has protested past at­tempts by main­land Chi­nese coast guard ships to block smaller boats trans­port­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel, food and other sup­plies to a Filipino mil­i­tary ship out­post at dis­puted Sec­ond Thomas Shoal, which is also claimed and guarded by Chi­nese coast guard ships. The tense stand­off at the shoal has lasted two years.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Voltaire Gazmin said the com­man­der, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., as­sured him of U.S. readi­ness to pro­vide as­sis­tance, adding that the U.S. mil­i­tary has flown an air­craft at least once when a Philip­pine boat de­liv­ered sup­plies last year to Filipino marines ma­rooned on the rusty naval ship that ran aground years ago at the dis­puted shoal.

AP jour­nal­ists wit­ness­ing a re­sup­ply mis­sion last year saw a U.S. mil­i­tary plane hov­er­ing above a Filipino sup­ply boat, which a Chi­nese coast guard ship tried but failed to block.

Such U.S. mil­i­tary flights de­ter Chi­nese moves, Gazmin said, adding that Philip­pine re­sup­ply boats have been ha­rassed less by Chi­nese coast guard ships af­ter the de­ploy­ment of the U.S. pa­trol plane.

“If there are Amer­i­cans fly­ing around there, we won’t be trou­bled,” Gazmin said in an in­ter­view. “We need to be helped in our re­sup­ply mis­sions. The best way they could as­sist is through their pres­ence.”

Sec­ond Thomas Shoal, which is called Ayun­gin by Filipinos and Ren’ai by Chi­nese, and the nearby Spratly Is­lands lie about 190 kilo­me­ters (120 miles) from the western Philip­pine province of Palawan, and about more than 1,000 kilo­me­ters (700 miles) from south­ern China. Main­land China’s ex­ter­nal af­fairs au­thor­ity says Bei­jing has “in­dis­putable sovereignty” over the shoal.

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