China warships in PH waters irk DND chief
Chinese warships crossing Philippine waters are an “annoying” matter for Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who did not mince words about the latest challenge to Philippine sovereignty by China when he questioned the intention of these vessels.
“I think this is not innocent anymore because this ha[s] been happening repeatedly,” Lorenzana said in an interview on Friday.
“[They] can pass through but why don’t they inform us? What’s too difficult about telling us, ‘Hey, we’re passing by.’ That’s all there is to it for us. Why the secrecy?”
On Wednesday, the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it had spotted at least five Chinese warships since July passing unannounced along Sibutu Passage in the Mindanao province of Tawi-Tawi.
According to officials, the warships were not immediately identified, as their radio was turned off and they did not communicate with the Philippine Navy.
Photos provided by the Westmincom of the four warships that crossed the strait in July only identified these through their bow numbers 195, 536 and 998.
Lorenzana said, “They may not have done anything wrong to us, like attack or whatever, but it’s really annoying because these are our waters and they are warships. It would be different if they were civilian vessels, but still, they turn off their identification system.”
“It is just annoying,” the defense chief said again.
Lorenzana also noted President Duterte’s state visit to China this month.
“We hope this will be mentioned so that it will be settled finally. This has become an irritant,” he said, adding that locals have been questioning the presence of the warships in their area.
“We also want to know … where are they going? Obviously, they are going back to China, but the bigger question: Where did they come from? And why are they crossing Sibutu Strait if they came from India or the Indian Ocean, [because] the nearest route is through Malacca Strait to South China Sea,” Lorenzana said.
“They did not have to pass through our waters,” he added.
In his interview with reporters at Camp Aguinaldo, also on Friday, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said, “[The reasons for notifying the Philippines] does not always have to be about any threat, but this goes with it the respect that they ought to show for our territory, for us as an ally, and all these had to be agreed [upon] of course through diplomatic arrangements [or] foreign relations.”
Madrigal said the defense department updates the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) about reports by the AFP to seek an “appropriate response” from the DFA.