South China Sea: Philippines says arbitration ‘final’ says expert
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The Philippines Coast Guard recently formed ‘The Angels of the Sea’, a team of 81 female radio operators. Authorities believe trespassing ships from China in Philippines waters will more likely listen to female voices expressing “the authority of wives or mothers”. Beijing regards much of the Philippine’s maritime territory in the South China Sea as its own.
Explaining the bizarre policy, Vice-Admiral Leopoldo Laroya claimed the new unit would be able to turn away trespassing ships without escalating conflict.
He said: “We recognise the evolving unique importance of having female radio operators aboard PCG vessels and shore-based units, especially in communicating with foreign ships, so as not to elevate tension.
“We want our Angels of the Sea to become the voice of peaceful and rules-based order at sea, especially in our country’s sensitive maritime frontiers.”
An unnamed coast guard officer told The Philippine Star: “Hearing a female voice on the other end of communication line could help defuse tension with foreign ships.
“The PCG believes that training female coastguard personnel as radio operators will be helpful in maintaining peace in the contested waters.”
Coastal operator Gretch Mary Acuario told The Times she broadcast a warning to seven Chinese vessels near Sabina Shoal.
She said: “Unidentified foreign vessel at Sabina Shoal, this is the Philippine coastguard.
“You are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone . . . You are requested to provide the following: name of vessel, intention, last and next port of call.”
According to the operator, the Chinese ships then promptly moved away.
Rear Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan, who devised the idea of the new unit, added women’s voices have a “maternal” quality and express “the authority of wives or mothers that pervades the Asian culture”.
It follows a spike in Chinese fishing vessels mooring in Philippines waters, with as many as 220 boats located at Whitsun Reef to outrage earlier this year.
While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not commented, Manila diplomat Teodoro Locsin Jr. reiterated in a statement its arbitration ruling dismissing China’s claims over the entirety of the South China Sea.
He said: “The Award conclusively settled the status of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.
“It declared as without legal effect claims that exceed geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
He then added: “It dashed among others a nine-dash line; and any expectation that possession is 9/10ths of the law.
“Because the mere fact of possession produces no legal effect, such as a territorial sea of any extent.”
At the end of June, the US cleared billions of dollars in potential arms sales to the Philippines.
According to The Diplomat, the proposed deal includes the transfer of 12 F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets, along with Sidewinder air-to-air and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Washington has been vocal in its defence of the Philippines and Taiwan, among other countries in the South China Sea.
Under President Joe Biden, the US has also continued to send warships to the disputed waters to the anger of Beijing.
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