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FIRING LINE: Phl, Japan ready to ‘volt in’

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The Philippines and Japan appear locked in on rushing a mutual defense agreement in light of the unprecedented aggression exhibited by China in the South China Sea. Last Sunday, the two strong allies had their leaders — President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — agree to swiftly move towards a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) to provide Japanese security forces with easier access to Philippine facilities.

In the face of China’s audacious actions, the two leaders affirmed their commitment to mutual defense and pledged to bolster cooperation between their coast guards. The urgency, of course, is forced by China’s brazen encroachments well within our country’s exclusive economic zone.

China’s sweeping claims of maritime territories in the South China Sea have unsettled and disrupted regional security, drawing more of the smaller claimant-nations’ regional and global allies with superior military strengths.

This accelerated diplomatic maneuver, not just of the Philippines, underscores the gravity of the security dilemma posed by China’s incursions. Chinese President Xi Jinping is no fool, but it isn’t very smart to keep testing the limits of Manila’s mutual defense treaty with Washington.

Japan, too, wants to team up with the Philippines, recognizing the need for a united front against an assertive China, which started this regional maritime security mess through its reckless actions in the South China Sea.

No sowing of hate

Even on social media, the likes of SM’s Tessie Sy-Coson are starting to feel unsettled. And why not? They are torn between their Chinese roots and their families’ flourishing in Philippine society. Now, she gets flak for simply appealing for calm and speaking out against hate and warmongering.

Nobody wants war with China. And let’s not bash or bully our fellow Filipinos in Chinatown. They are Filipino citizens whose ancestors have long chosen this country as their own. 

By the way, I think Filipino-Chinese is a mislabel. The correct term is Chinese Filipino, and some of them point this out, calling themselves “Chinoys,” meaning of “Chinese” descent or roots and of “Filipino” citizenship and nationalism.

In truth, some of them are more patriotic than some of our government leaders would ever be. They do business and provide jobs for millions, pour investments into public works and projects, and even represent our nation’s colors in the highest levels of world sports.

 Joint exploration

We could probably tolerate one another in this region and eliminate the bullying, the hate, the greed, and the biases. In that case, nations can jointly benefit from the rich resources underneath the West Philippine Sea.

There would be reasonable sense in that Bongbong Marcos underscored when he spoke in Japan about the urgency to resolve South China Sea tensions for collaborative oil and gas exploration.

The Philippines’ stand on Recto Bank is clear — it’s within our exclusive economic zone. Amid the depletion of Malampaya gas field reserves, joint exploration is crucial for the energy transition. However, diplomatic deadlock persists, and a more assertive China poses a real challenge.

It’s my Christmas wish that new solutions, not war, do crop — not just for oil but for fostering regional cooperation that ensures lasting peace for many generations.

*         *         *

SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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