MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said the United States must keep China in check in the South China Sea in order to maintain the “balance of power” in the region, as the Asian power continues to assert its dominance over other claimants in the resources-rich waterway.
Lacson had earlier called on the Philippines to invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US so the latter could help in patrolling Philippine waters, as Chinese vessels continued its incursions in the country’s exclusive economic zone.
He said invoking the 1951 pact would not necessarily result in a war between the two superpowers.
“Maintaining the balance of power in the [West Philippine Sea] will prevent rather than ignite war. Why? No two superpowers would go to war in this day and age of nuclear technology for the simple reason of its ‘zero-sum’ outcome,” he said in a statement.
Tensions between Manila and Beijing recently rose after a Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Reed Bank (Recto Bank) last June 9.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea by the Chinese crew after sinking their boat. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel. An investigation is underway to determine whether the ramming was intentional.
President Rodrigo Duterte has downplayed the incident, prompting outrage from critics who want Manila to stand up to Chinese aggression.
In a speech Wednesday, Duterte said he believes the ramming seemed unintentional, as the Filipino boat was merely “sideswiped” by the Chinese vessel.
Recto Bank is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, which guarantees the country’s exclusive rights to the natural resources in the area.
In a chance interview last Monday, Duterte said China will not allow itself to be prevented to fish even inside the Philippines' EEZ.
When asked whether the Philippines should prevent China from fishing in the Philippine EEZ, Duterte said the two countries are "friends" and that there should not be any "bloody conclusion."
Critics have said Duterte’s recent pronouncements can be made as basis for his impeachment.