Past admin ‘mismanaged’ West PH Sea dispute — Lorenzana
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday that the previous administration ‘mismanaged’ the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute amid criticisms that the current government is mishandling the issue.
“We have managed it very well through President’s leadership. Sakin hindi mismanaged ‘yun, ang nag-mismanage ‘yung previous administration kaya nagkagulo dito,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the flag-raising ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo. Lorenzana, however, did not say in particular which “previous administration” he was referring to.
The Duterte administration is facing criticisms for what some people have called defeatist stance and inaction on the dispute. But President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly blamed his predecessor, President Benigno S. Aquino III and the United States, over China’s massive military buildup in the disputed waterway that started years ago.
But it was also the Aquino administration that filed the arbitration case against China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea in 2012. The ruling, which was hugely in favor of the Philippines, was decided in July 2016, a few weeks after Duterte assumed office.
The Duterte administration, however, refused to bring up the ruling in apparent favor of economic gains from China.
“Ano ang nadatnan ng Presidente natin nung pumasok? Wala tayong trade with China, ‘yung mga product natin hindi nila binibili. ‘Yung tourists walang pumupunta dito. Hindi tayo nakakapangisda sa Scarborough. ‘Yung ating mga tropa hina-harass nila,” Lorenzana argued.
“Ngayon, we sell our bananas, our tourism nag doble. We can fish there sa Scarborough. Ang mga tropa hindi hina-harass except the isolated (incdient) sa Ayungin. Is that mismanagement?” he added.
However, a video of Chinese Coast Guard boarding fishing boats of Filipino fishermen to take their best catch in Scarborough Shoal circulated last week. The government dismissed the video was “inconclusive.”
The May 11 incident wherein a Chinese Navy chopper hovered in a close distance to challenge a Philippine Navy vessel bound to deliver supplies in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), was labeled as “isolated incident” by Lorenzana.
He also reiterated that Mr. Duterte never ordered to stop patrols in the West Philippine Sea as claimed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.
“Hindi niya ginawa ‘yun. He did not even hint that we stop patrolling. Regular tayo dyan, ‘yung eroplano natin basta hindi masama ang panahon umiikot ‘yan,” he said.
The defense chief also defended Duterte’s statement that the military would rather oust their commander-in-chief than be sent to war to defend the disputed seas.
“Alam niya kasi na our soldiers will obey the chain of command, ‘yun ang gagawin. So pag sinabi niya, pupunta talaga ang mga sundalo. Alam niyang massacre ‘yan at hindi niya gagawin ‘yun. Kapag inutusan kami talagang susugod kami,” he explained.
Lorenzana said Duterte, who always brings up war when he talks about the sea row, is aware of the other options in the dispute.
“There is diplomacy, ‘yung tinatawag nilang soft power, talking to the Chinese. The President is just shooting the breeze. He’s an intelligent person. He has a deep grasp of the situation,” he said. /kga
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