Manila, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros countered China's criticism of the joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, stating that it is China who has been undermining peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). Hontiveros made this statement on Friday, emphasizing the Philippines' right as a sovereign nation to patrol its waters.
According to Philippines News Agency, China has been the primary source of trouble in the WPS, citing instances of harassment against Philippine vessels and the creation of artificial islands within the country's exclusive economic zone. In a media interview, she highlighted the aggressive actions of Chinese vessels, including the use of water cannons and ramming incidents against Philippine ships. Hontiveros also criticized China’s militarization of artificial islands and their claims over Philippine territory.
The senator stressed that the Philippines has the freedom to engage in joint patrols with other nations, advocating for multilateralism in foreign relations. She noted that aside from the United States, the Philippines also conducts joint maritime exercises with Japan, Australia, India, and other naval powers committed to maintaining a rules-based order in the WPS and the South China Sea. Hontiveros asserted that China's opposition to these exercises stems from its inability to dominate a coalition of nations supporting freedom of navigation in the region.