In a bid to show cooperation and unity among claimants in the West Philippine Sea despite overlapping claims, the navies of the Philippines and Vietnam recently gathered on a disputed island to play sports and exchange cultures.
The Philippine Navy contingent led by Captain Francisco Tagamolila sailed to Pugad (Southwest Cay) Island on September 10 for the day-long event with the Vietnam People’s Navy, said Naval Forces West commander Commodore Sean Anthony Villa.
Aside from playing volleyball and tug of war, both navies also showcased folk songs and dance as part of the cultural exchange. The two navies turned to prayer for peace and stability in the region when they visited a temple.
Pugad Island was once occupied by Philippine forces but it was snatched by Vietnam in the 1970s.
The Philippines and Vietnam have been alternately hosting the said activity since 2014. Last year, a similar event was hosted by the Philippine Navy on Parola (Northeast Cay) Island which is being occupied by the Philippines.
Both the Philippines and Vietnam are claimants to the South China Sea, a strategic waterway and one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It is also claimed by China, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
China insists on its indisputable sovereignty over nearly the whole South China Sea and has turned some reefs and islands into huge military outposts in recent years to bolster its position. Beijing’s claims were invalidated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 but the Asian superpower has refused to acknowledge the ruling.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ANN