PH can be cordial with other nations but not at the expense of sovereignty – Lorenzana
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said the Philippines would maintain its ties and cooperation with China but not at the expense of its sovereign rights.
According to Lorenzana, this is in line with the order of President Rodrigo Duterte “to defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas.”
“As for our long-standing and multi-faceted relationship with China, we maintain cooperation in various areas that are mutually beneficial to our peoples,” said Lorenzana in a statement.
“We can be cordial and cooperative with other nations but not at the expense of our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he added.
Lorenzana added that maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and Kalayaan Island Group would continue, reiterating that the government would “not waver” in its mission to protect the country’s hold in the disputed waters.
“While we acknowledge that China’s military capability is more advanced than ours, this does not deter us from defending our national interest, and our dignity as a people, with all that we have,” said Lorenzana in a statement on Sunday.
“Thus, the conduct of maritime patrol in the WPS and Kalayaan Island Group by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue. The government will not waver in its position, walang alisan (we will not go anywhere),” he added.
Lorenzana then said that the latest developments in WPS make it clear that there is a need for “all stakeholders to cooperate.”
“They can now take this as an opportunity to advance the values and principles we collectively affirm and profess to respect – including the peaceful settlement of disputes – as partners and as signatories to UNCLOS and all relevant international instruments,” Lorenzana said.
The Defense secretary then denied, for the second time, reports that allege that he and other military officials both retired and active, are withdrawing support for President Rodrigo Duterte, allegedly because of the Chief Executive’s supposed inaction in the said issue.
“Yung nagsasabi na hindi kami align ng Presidente (to those saying that we are not aligned with the President,) let me clarify that my pronouncements echo the stand of our President and Commander-in-Chief.”
This announcement came after President Rodrigo Duterte said that he will not let the country go to war with China, calling the latter nation a “good friend” as we owe them a “debt of gratitude,” in a pre-recorded briefing on April 28.
Duterte, however, eventually noted that there were still things that he would not be ready to give up, like sovereign territory.
The latest issue over the WPS stemmed from reports by the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea that there were Chinese Maritime Militia ships — not fishing vessels as previously claimed by Chinese authorities — near the Julian Felipe Reef.
The government’s alleged lack of effort in enforcing the country’s authority over the WPS has drawn flak from critics.
Just last April 25, Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that it seemed Malacañang was running “like a headless chicken” when it came to the maritime dispute with China.
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