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South China Sea: Philippines deploys all-female unit to deter Chinese vessels amidst tensions in disputed waters
China’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea have angered the surrounding nations who have also made similar claims over parts of the body of water. In an effort to ease tensions with China, the Philippines’ Coast Guard has dispatched an all-female unit.
The Philippines’ Coast Guard formed a team of 81 female radio operators dubbed “Angels of the Sea.” Officials explained that the Chinese vessels trespassing in Philippine waters will more likely listen to female voices expressing the “authority of wives and mothers.” Vice admiral Leopoldo Laroya added that the all-female unit would be able to turn away trespassing vessels without the need to escalate conflict.
“We recognize 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,” said Laroya. “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 waters.”
A coast guard officer told the local news outlet the Philippine Star that hearing a female voice on the other line could help ease the tension with foreign ships. Coastal operator Gretch Mary Acuario said she has had to broadcast a warning to seven Chinese vessels that were seen close to the Sabina shoal. Acuario added that the ships moved away afterward.
“You are within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone...You are requested to provide the following: Name of the vessel, intention, and last and next port of call.”
Aside from tensions with China over the South China Sea, there is also the situation in Taiwan, which China also claims to have sovereignty over. Taiwan insists on being an independent state, despite China’s threats to take the island nation through military means. However, tensions may escalate should the US interfere in the situation, according to former Singapore diplomat Bilahari Klausikan.
Klausikan believes that while tensions are at a high between the US and China over Taiwan, it will not escalate into a nuclear war. The former diplomat explained that just as nuclear deterrence kept the peace between the US and Russia during the Cold War, it could be the same situation between the US and China over Taiwan.