Aquino mismanaged PH sea dispute with China, says defense chief
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte was handling the Philippines’ maritime row with China in the South China Sea very well compared with the Aquino administration, which he said “mismanaged” the dispute.
Speaking to reporters after flag-raising rites at the Department of National Defense in Camp Aguinaldo, Lorenzana said “everything went chaotic” in the dispute under the Aquino administration.
He pointed out that before the Duterte administration took over, the Philippines had no trade with China, Chinese tourists were not coming in, Filipinos could not fish at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, and Filipino troops were being harassed by the Chinese in the Spratly Islands.
‘Very isolated incident’
“Today, we sell our bananas there (China) and they buy our bananas. Tourists have doubled and we can fish there. Our troops are no longer being harassed, except for that very isolated incident at Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal),” Lorenzana said.
He was referring to the harassment of a Philippine Navy restocking mission to the Filipino garrison on the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal on May 11.
Referring to a claim by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Lorenzana denied demoralization in the military because of the President’s weak response to China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
He said the Presidenever ordered the military to stop patrolling the West Philippine Sea—waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea—as claimed by Alejano.
Lorenzana also said the military was still verifying reports that Chinese coast guards were stealing Filipino fishermen’s catch at Panatag Shoal.
Some of the complaining fishermen were in Malacañang on Monday.
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