By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The German government is ready to work with Manila to prevent a crisis from breaking out in the South China Sea (SCS) by helping it promote international law while strengthening its maritime security, its top diplomat said Thursday after raising concern over the rising tensions in the region.

Speaking to local and foreign press in Manila, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called out China’s “claims for extensive maritime areas” and harassment against Filipino vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

“[T]here are truly rough winds blowing across the South China Sea, and this is happening in the middle of one of the most economic regions of the world,” she said.

“The incidents over the recent months where the Chinese Coast Guard has used lasers and water cannons against Philippine resupply vessels — and even collisions happened — are of concern also for us in Europe, even though we’re thousands of kilometers away, because such risky maneuvers violate the rights and opportunities for economic development of your own country and other littoral states as well,” she said.

Baerbock emphasized that the 2016 Arbitral Ruling had been clear that Beijing’s claims “are not covered by international law”.

She said Berlin, through the European Union, will also work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in promoting the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which declares that states have rights to resources within their 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Every country has its own exclusive economic zones. And in this spirit, we, as the European Union, will work more closely together with ASEAN on these questions,” she said.

On maritime security, she said Berlin would expand its existing cooperation with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), including by providing possible additional drones for the region.

In 2022, Germany donated two units of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to the PCG to help the agency enhance capacity in securing a “rules-based order along the Philippines’ coastline”.

The German top diplomat, who is in Manila for a bilateral meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, will also visit the PCG headquarters this afternoon to hear firsthand the challenges they face in protecting Manila’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Germany will support initiatives and mechanisms to peacefully resolve tensions in the South China Sea, Baerbock added.

On top of maritime concerns, Baerbock and Manalo also discussed Germany’s peace initiatives and development cooperation with the Philippines as well as ways to boost bilateral trade and investments on renewable energy, among others.

Manalo thanked Baerbock for Berlin’s unflinching support for international law and described the country as a “valuable partner” for the Philippines both bilaterally and multilaterally.

“We think we can work together since we share so many common (concerns) in so many areas, whether it be here or in the Middle East or in other parts of the world,” he said.

Baerbock’s Manila trip marks the first visit by a German Federal Foreign Minister to the Philippines in over a decade. (PNA)