How Can the European Union Keep the Sovereignty of Indo-Pacific Region?
The intensifying disagreement in the Indo-Pacific region could be out of hand anytime. According to political analysts, this current situation might compel the European Union (EU) to proceed with maritime deals with the Philippines. The move may hamper China’s deepened aggression in the South China Sea.
European Union-PH Agreement on Subcommittee Establishment on Maritime Security
The European Union and Philippine officials specified the establishment of organising a committee on maritime security. It happened amid their third joint delegation meeting in Brussels last month to assure freedom of navigation and overflight in the controversial waterway.
“The peace, security, and openness of the South China Sea matters a lot to the economic interests of EU countries. With the demographic decline in the West, along with constrained economic activities brought by the war in Ukraine, EU countries need alternative sources of economic growth and development,” said Don McClain Gill.
Gill, who teaches foreign relations at De La Salle University in Manila added that the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) is the EU’s third-biggest trade partner. The Philippines is a member of the association. According to him, the EU-Philippines partnership will focus on maintaining the Indo-Pacific free, accessible, and pristine.
Roughly 40% of the EU’s foreign trade crosses the South China Sea, which China wholly claims. Gill noted that because of this, the law and order of the said sea greatly depend on the EU.
The Philippines is the EU’s significant partner predisposed to their mutual compliance with democratic principles. This includes their shared goals of keeping the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. The country’s increased ties with Australia, Japan, and the US also work with the exigencies of the EU countries.
Moreover, he stated that China persists in militarizing the South China Sea and diverges the regional balance of power to its advantage. The communist country became braver to carry out its de facto regional exclusionary policies against extra-regional powers.
Chinese Vessels Swarm the Iroquois Reef
On July 7, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed they discovered more or less 48 Chinese fishing vessels close to Iroquois Reef. Five Chinese Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels also drifted near Sabina Shoal.
“Based on our last monitoring, Chinese maritime militia (remains) in the area. The Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for this coming week will be intensifying our patrols to make sure that they will leave the reef,” said Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Cdre. Jay Tarriela during a radio interview.
According to Chester B. Cabalza, such activities confirm China’s intention to surround the maritime features in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). These features within the zone comprise the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the Palawan province. He said that the foreign vessels’ presence should be a warning sign to the government due to its proximity to the rusted BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as the Philippine troops’ outpost.
He added that the worst-case scenario that might happen is when the defunct vessel sinks. China will have the opportunity to take control of Sabina Shoal. To safeguard the Philippines’ interest in Iroquois Reef near the Recto Bank, the Marcos administration should push forward its interest in joint exploration and other scientific activities with China. Cabalza is the founder of the Manila-based International Development and Security Cooperation.
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