MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Saturday, April 16, defended the United States from China’s allegations that the superpower is militarizing the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) through its presence in the disputed area.
In an interview with state-run radio dzRB, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said this was not the objective of the PH-US joint military exercises observed by no less than US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, which ended on Friday.
“We believe that the People’s Republic of China, through its statements, misunderstands or perhaps does not properly appreciate the purpose of our activities with the United States,” Quezon said.
He reiterated the position of the Philippines that the activities “are to ensure freedom of navigation in the region which benefits all nations because it allows the free, unhampered flow of trade which is to all the benefit of all the economies of the region.”
“These are peaceful and highly uncontroversial exercises meant to ensure that prosperity is continuous under a regime of stability through the participation of all countries,” Quezon added.
He also explained that there is “no contradiction” when it comes to the recent actions of the US in the region, especially in the West Philippine Sea. At the end of the Balikatan exercises, Carter visited a US warship in the disputed sea.
On Friday, Carter told reporters aboard the USS John C. Stennis, a nuclear-powered carrier that can carry about 75 planes and helicopters, that his visit to the warship “is a message to the region that the US intends to continue to play a role in keeping peace and stability in this region.”
Quezon was also asked about criticism that the country is getting only the superpower’s military hand-me-downs.
At Rappler’s second senatorial debate on Friday, former Akbayan party list representative and senatorial bet Walden Bello pointed out that the US has given the Philippines its old defense equipment. (READ: Bello hits Aquino admin over EDCA ‘deception’)
Quezon explained that the Hamilton-class cutters given by US to the Philippines is “already a generation or more advanced than what we used to have,” despite it being a late 1960s ship.
He later dismissed a comment that these ships are already “like scrap,” saying that “there are other nations that have also taken on the Hamilton-class cutter.”
But, he argued that Philippines forces should be trained on how to use these first before taking on more modern weaponry.
“Kailangan masanay tayo sa hindi na ‘yung mga antigong mga engine, for example, kung ‘di mga mas modernong engine at mga mas modernong teknolohiya. Pag nasanay na tayo at bihasa na tayo doon, puwede naman tayo mag-invest sa mga pinaka-modernong bagay,” Quezon said.
(We need to be trained not to use ships with old engines, for example, but those with more modern engines and more modern technology. Once we learn how to use it, we could then invest in the most modern equipment.)
He added that this move suits the country’s needs because it helps in efforts to beef up the capacity of the Armed Forces and the Coast Guard while being prudent in spending public funds.
“Hindi naman tayo puwedeng maluho sa paggastos at marami ding mga bagay na kailangan bigyan ng atensyon katulad ng mga serbisyo para sa ating mga kababayan,” he said.
(We can’t be too extravagant in spending, and there are things that we need to attend to more, like various services for our countrymen.)
“I think kung susuriin naman natin talaga ang mga kilos na ito at ang mga ongoing projects with our foreign allies, it shows na steady naman at may sense ang ginagawa natin,” he added.
(I think that when we examine these actions and the ongoing projects with our foreign allies, it shows that [our alliance] is steady at what we do makes sense.) – Rappler.com
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