By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine government is amenable to China’s proposal to exclude the United States from the joint military exercises and energy exploration with Southeast Asian neighbors in the region.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the United States might only be left “out of place” if China wants to build stronger relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“We find nothing objectionable to the fact that China would want to exclude non-Asians from the military exercise. I think the contemplation of Chinese authorities is to have military cooperation amongst neighbors,” Roque said during a press conference in Bukidnon.
“Of course the United States is 10,000 miles away so if the intention is to build stronger relations between military forces who are neighbors then the United States will really be out of place,” he added.
For now, Roque said China’s invitation to the Southeast Asian countries was still a “manifestation of intent.”
He assured the public that the Department of National Defense would “study the matter seriously.”
China has reportedly proposed regular military exercises with ASEAN countries including the Philippines in the region. The military drills however would reportedly not involve countries outside the region unless concerned parties pose no objection.
Apart from military exercises, China also reportedly wants joint oil and gas exploration with ASEAN in the disputed waters.
China and other Asian nations have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea. Tension in the region has risen as countries like the Philippines have protested China’s increased reclamation works and military buildup in the disputed waters.