MANILA, Philippines – The country’s top defense official repeated President Rodrigo Duterte’s defeatist stance against China’s aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in the wake of new reports of harassment.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines has no capability to defend the country’s maritime territories and troops can only watch if China blocks the military’s resupply missions to outposts there.
“At present, we don’t have any capability to even to just demonstrate to others that we are capable. We are not capable. We don’t have the capital ships. We don’t have the weapons,” Lorenzana said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) aired on Monday morning, June 4.
“If they block our people from resupplying our outposts there in the Spratlys, then what can we do?,” Lorenzana said.
The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China for harassing a Philippine rubber boat on its way to resupply Marines occupying a grounded warship in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
Lorenzana said the country can only resort to protests, something the government also would rather keep from the public and quietly resolve with China.
“All we can do now is protest – diplomatic protest, note verbal – and have a dialogue with China. There’s nothing we can do,” Lorenzana said.
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, a retired Marine officer, divulged how a Chinese chopper hovered “in a close and dangerous distance.”
Lorenzana asked Congress for more funds for military modernization.
“We don’t have the capabilities now. We are [working] double time but it depends on the funds that we get from Congress – if they allocate more funds for our modernization program,” said Lorenzana.
Money is not the issue in the case of Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, however. Funds for the repair of the country’s airstrip on the island was allocated by the previous Aquino administration but repeated protests from China delayed the project.
The government finally started work on the airstrip recently. It remains to be seen if repair works will be completed. (READ: PH plans for Pag-asa to test Duterte’s friendship with China)
“We are trying to also pave (the airstrip) that so that we can bring in our aircraft anytime. At present, you can only land there after 5 days of sunshine. [Otherwise], it is soggy and you cannot land,” said Lorenzana.
“So it will take some time for us to be ready to defend our territories the way we should have defended in the first place,” said Lorenzana. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com