AFP recommends building structures in West PH Sea to assert sovereignty

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 23, 2021   •   645

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has recommended building structures in the West Philippine Sea to boost the country’s presence in the disputed territories.

AFP Chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said it would take two to three months for the country’s maritime vessels to go around the West Philippine Sea. He also added that the country’s naval assets are not enough to patrol given the scope of the area.

Due to this, the AFP and the Philippine Navy continue their modernization; however, there is a need for additional budget.

“Dagdagan ang ating modernization fund para mas marami tayong mabiling sasakyang pandagat. At isa pa itong ating procurement law kung saan napaka-rigid. Ang hirap bumili ng pangangailangan ng ating Armed Forces of the Philippines (Increase our modernization fund so that we can procure naval vessels. One more thing, the procurement law is also rigid. It is difficult to procure for the needs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines),he said.

Aside from additional naval ships, the AFP also recommends building structures including cold storage facilities, light houses, and rest areas for Filipino fishermen.

“We are also entertaining the idea, of course, subject to the wisdom of NTF-WPS na magtatayo ng istruktura sa naturang lugar katulad ng ginagawa rin ng China. Kasi ang dahilan kung bakit hindi tayo nagtatayo diyan noong araw kasi may napag-uusapan na wala dapat magpatayo (to build structures in the said areas similar to what China has done. We did not build any structures there previously because it was discussed not to do so),” Sobejana said.

Meanwhile, the AFP did not elaborate if the structures would also include military headquarters. AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Enrile advises Duterte to ignore critics of foreign policy; keep friendly approach on West PH Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile advised President Rodrigo Duterte not to mind people who are criticizing his foreign policy, particularly on the issue involving China and the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

During Duterte’s pre-recorded public address late Monday, Enrile told the president to just let his critics ramble on and to not engage them on the issue.

“That’s the best thing Mr. President. Pabayaan mo na lang sila,” Enrile said.

“After all Mr. President, you are only responsible to the Filipino people, and you are not responsible to any specific person for your foreign policy. Yours is to protect the interest of the nation and its people in the best way you can,” he added.

Duterte invited Enrile to Malacañang to speak on the issue concerning West Philippine Sea, the role in the issue of some officials, particularly former Senator Antonio Trillanes and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and why the Philippines lost access to the Scarborough Shoal during the Aquino administration.

“Alam na ngayon ng mga tao kug bakit hindi ako sumasagot. This is the best advise that I got ngayong gabing ito,” Duterte said.

“I hope that we would be able to weather any trouble with China now and in the future for as long as it’s very dangerous for us,” he added.

Earlier in the conference, the 97-year old former lawmaker also advised Duterte to keep his “friendly” approach towards China and the issue on the West Philippine Sea.

“Hindi dapat gamitin ang mainit na kaisipan na kagaya ng mga kritiko natin. Dapat balance lang ang approach natin at mahinahon,” he said.

“Kailangan na friendly ang approach natin diyan, hindi assertive and aggressive approach sapagkat kapag hindi tayo magkakaunawa sa China ay madadamay ang interes ng ating mga kababayan, ang ating ekonomiya, pati na rin ang ating seguridad dito sa usapin na ito,” he added.

Duterte thanked Enrile for his advise, reiterating that he prefers to talk with China instead of using force to defend the Philippine sovereignty.

Enrile to speak on West Philippine Sea issue during Duterte’s public address Monday night — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   May 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The issue of the West Philippine Sea dispute and why the country lost the Scarborough Shoal will be discussed anew when President Rodrigo Duterte holds his weekly public address on Monday night, Malacañang said.

In an online press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the issue will be tackled after former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile accepted Duterte’s invitation to speak on the matter during the President’s Talk to the People.

Roque made the announcement a few days after Duterte invited Enrile to speak on the issue

Enrile will particularly shed light on the role of some officials, particularly former Senator Antonio Trillanes and Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and why the Philippines lost access to the Scarborough Shoal during the Aquino administration.

“Sabi nga ng Pangulo, former Senator Enrile was there right at the beginning. Kinakailangan po nating pakinggan ang sasabihin ng dating senador dahil magandang malaman ang papel ni dating Senador Antonio Trillanes at dating Secretary Albert del Rosario sa usapin ng pagkawala ng Scarborough shoal sa Pilipinas,” Roque said.

The Palace official insisted that the issue on the West Philippine Sea would not have been this heated if not for the stand-off incident between the Philippines and China in 2012.

“Wag ninyong kalilimutan, bilang ganti ng China sa ating arbitration, yung Scarborough Shoal incident din ang naging dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon po ng mga base militar ngayon ang China dun sa mga artificial islands na karamihan po ay kabahagi ng ating exclusive economic zone,” Roque said.

It has been reported that the Philippines and China agreed to simultaneously withdraw their respective vessels out of the contested area back in 2012 after a prolonged stand-off between the two countries.

The agreement, brokered by the United States to de-escalate the situation, was only complied with by the Philippines as China did not pull out its vessels in the area.

Aside from the West Philippine Issue, Roque said Duterte will also seek Enrile’s opinion on the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Esperon assures following Duterte’s orders in defending West PH Sea

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser and Chairman of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea Sec. Hermogenes Esperon said they will follow President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders in defending the West Philippine Sea.

The President previously said that he will not back down and will not order the retreat of the two vessels that the country deployed in patrolling the Kalayaan Islands and the Mischief Reef.

“Hindi talaga ako aatras. Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan,” he said during a public address.

(I will not back down. Kill me, I will be here. This is where our friendship ends.)

In a separate interview in Politiscoop, Esperon said they are prepared to follow the President’s orders which includes deploying military ships in case there is an excavation of natural gas in the disputed islands.

“May utos na po ang pangulo natin diyan. Alam na natin gagawin diyan,” he said.

(The President has a directive. We already know what to do.)

Esperon also noted that the country is using satellite technology to monitor unauthorized sea vessels entering the country’s territory.

He added that the task force, in coordination with the Philippine Space Agency, aims to boost the country’s satellite technology.

“Actually mayroon tayong nova satellite diyan run by the Philippine Space Agency at pinapalawig pa natin ang ating kakayahan tungkol sa satellite. For now ang ginagamit na ay ang flight maritime patrols, sovereign patrols ng Air Force ng navy,” he said.

(Actually, we have a nova satellite run by the Philippine Space Agency and we are still expanding our capability with regards to the satellite. For now, we are using flight maritime patrols, the sovereign patrols of the Air Force.)

Amid the tension between the disputed islands, the President reiterated that the country is avoiding any conflict in the region. But he said that China should still respect the country’s position on the issue. AAC (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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