Press Release
January 25, 2023

Tolentino backs multilateral maritime security cooperation with US, ASEAN amid latest tension in West PH Sea

MANILA - Senator Francis 'Tol' N. Tolentino is backing the conduct of a multilateral show of maritime security cooperation with the United States and other neighboring countries which belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) amid the latest tension in the disputed territories along the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

According to Tolentino, expanding the conduct of joint patrols--to include other claimant states among ASEAN nations--will help ensure the freedom of navigation, exercise of fishing rights, and somehow pacify existing tensions due to territorial disputes hounding the South China Sea region.

"I have been espousing that joint Philippine-US Coast Guard patrol but we might even extend that to being a multilateral patrol to include other ASEAN claimants... it will need, not just a sole Philippine initiative but the inclusion and involvement of other countries, interested or not--but interested in maintaining the freedom of navigation within that area," said Tolentino, vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez earlier bared that the idea of holding a joint PH-US maritime patrols near the disputed South China Sea territories is already "on the table" amid the January 9 incident along the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), in which members of the China Coast Guard repulsed and harassed a group Filipino fisherman in the area.

For Tolentino, having a multilateral cooperation is also not limited to holding a large fleet of joint maritime and naval patrols but can also be stretched on other areas like disaster-related exercises and joint operations concerning disaster mitigation.

"It's time. It's not just for joint patrol. I would think that it can expand and perhaps in ensuring that fishermen, from whatever jurisdiction, can--with agreements of course--can freely utilize the fruits of the sea," the senator said.

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