Japanese destroyer arrives at Subic Bay

THE Japanese light aircraft carrier "Ise" docked at Subic Bay on Tuesday for a goodwill visit as part of a strategic partnership deal that was forged in response to Chinese militarization in the South China Sea.

It is the second time the Ise, classified as a destroyer, made a port call on the country after it was deployed to help in the international disaster relief activities following the onslaught of Typhoon "Yolanda" in 2013, said the vessels commander Capt. Masaki Takada.

"This visit is also intended for the crew's rest and replenishment of the vessel," Takada said amid demands in Congress that the country pursue joint naval and air patrols in the South China Sea after Beijing announced plans to reclaim land on Panatag [Scarborough] Shoal off Zambales.

Port call. The Japanese helicopter destroyer 'Ise' is towed to dock at the Subic Freeport for a four-day goodwill visit. This is the third time a Japanese naval vessel has visited the country this year. AFP

The Ise is a Hy?ga-class light aircraft carrier that can carry 11 helicopters and is also equipped with surface-to-air missiles, antisubmarine rockets and torpedo system.

The specifications of the Hy?ga-class helicopter destroyers are comparable to light aircraft carriers, such as Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi and Spanish Principe de Asturias.

Takada said the Ise will stay in the country until April 29.

The increased visits of Japanese vessels are part of the strategic partnership that the country is pursuing with Japan and was formalized with a defense equipment and transfer agreement that was signed last February. The Philippines was the first Southeast Asian country to sign such an agreement with Japan.

Japan has only signed defense equipment and transfer agreements with the the United States, Britain (2013) Australia (2014) and India (2015).

Meanwhile, Makabayan senatorial candidate Representative Neri Colmenares expressed alarm on the reported plans of China to set up an outpost on Panatag Shoal.

"This is very alarming and we must act immediately. We should deploy more coast guard vessels in the area and encourage our fishermen to actively report the presence of Chinese vessels in Panatag shoal. We should also push for joint patrols with other affected countries like Vietnam, Malaysia & Brunei because this is a bigger deterrent to China's plan," said Colmenares.

The lawmaker said the Philippines should also notify the international community to help us condemn and counter the latest Chinese action.

"Panatag shoal is one of the richest fishing grounds of our fishermen and it would be very devastating for their livelihood as well as our economy if the Chinese control the shoal," he said.

"China's plans and actions are further aggravating the tension in the region and they should stop it. Last February, they set up surface to air missile launchers in Woody Island, which is part of the Paracels claimed by Vietnam, if left unquestioned China may deploy missiles in Philippine territory," he added.

"We are one with the Vietnamese people as well as other affected countries on this fight. A threat to them is a threat to the Philippines. The international community should now step in so as to de-escalate tensions and we hope that the international arbitral tribunal at The Hague, will also decide soon on the case filed by the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea issue and side with our country's position."

"China has already reclaimed at least 7 of our reefs such as the Panganiban (Mischief), Mabini (Johnson South), Gavin (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Hughes (Kennan), Malvar (Eldad) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs, that are clearly within Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone but hardly anything has been done to address it," the congressman said.

Source: The Standard

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