United States Navy Admiral Philip S. Davidson, Commander, United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), said in his prepared testimony before US Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on February 12 stated that China regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from the Philippines in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
“Chinese Coast Guard vessels now fall under the command of the Central Military Commission and regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from our treaty ally, the Philippines, operating near Scarborough Reef, as well as the fishing fleets of other regional nations,” Admiral Davidson said.
He said that Beijing maintains maritime claims in the South China Sea that are contrary to international law and pose a substantial long-term threat to the rules-based international order.
He noted that China ignored the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal decision that its claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the “nine-dash line” are contrary to UNCLOS and without legal effect.
“In April 2018, Beijing continued militarizing outposts by deploying advanced military systems that further enhance the PLA’s power projection capabilities, including missiles and electronic jammers,” Davidson added. “These actions run directly counter to President Xi’s 2015 commitment not to militarize these features.”
Davidson also mentioned that in the Philippines, his focus is to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to develop territorial defense capability.
“I am also focused on helping to develop the territorial defense capability of the Armed Forces Philippines (AFP) and look forward to re-engaging with the Philippines National Police Maritime Group to continue improving their ability to protect their sovereign interests,” he said.