China aggression in West PH sea 'manageable,' says Lorenzana

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana downplayed the threat of China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea on Monday, October 12.

Facing senators through a Zoom budget hearing, Lorenzana described the "situation in the West Philippine Sea" as "stable" and "manageable."

He noted that the situation is being managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. (READ: Locsin visits China in first foreign trip during pandemic)

Lorenzana was responding to Senator Risa Hontiveros, who asked what the DND considers the biggest threats to the Philippines' security.

He said the biggest threats are not external, but internal: the communist insurgency, and the terrorists, who have mostly planted their bases in Mindanao.

"We can focus more our attention on our internal threats," Lorenzana said.

A ruling by a Hague tribunal on July 12, 2016 invalidated China's claim over the entire South China Sea and upheld the Philippines' rights over its waters and features. The Duterte administration has largely refused to enforce it, however, fearing a retaliation from the Asian superpower.

Are their priorities correct?

Hontiveros said she was "surprised" that Lorenzana considered communists rebels as the biggest threat to the country, explaining that it appeared that security forces, including the police, have them under control.

The police and the military have suggested that they are slowly overwhelming the communists day by day. In fact, the military regularly announces that it continues to decimate the forces of communist rebels.

"“All figures are on the decline," said Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gilbert Gapay on September 23.

Meanwhile, terrorists are being hunted down in Mindanao by both the military and the police. Just on Saturday, law enforcers arrested alleged Indonesian suicide bomber Rezky Fantasya Rullie in Jolo, Sulu.

As for the West Philippine Sea, Lorenzana himself and officials of the Philippine Navy have confirmed repeatedly that China continues its expansion efforts in waters that belong to the Philippines. The Duterte administration has so far been fighting back by firing off diplomatic protests to China.

"I hope that the DND also prioritizes external threats," said Hontiveros. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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