Lorenzana hits repeated intrusions of Chinese warships in PH waters
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday voiced his frustration over China’s repeated unannounced presence of Chinese warships in Philippine waters.
“Tayo sa defense, naiinis na din tayo dahil hindi nga sila nagsasabi sa ‘tin,” he told reporters Friday.
The defense chief said he hopes that these intrusions would be discussed when President Rodrigo Duterte visits China later this month.
“Sana ma-mention ito para tapos na. Irritant na kasi ‘to ngayon eh,” he said.
The Philippine military this week cited fresh reports of the unannounced transit of five Chinese warships in Sibutu Strait since July. This comes after the Philippine government recently protested the passage of Chinese warships in Sibutu Strait four times from February to June.
Sibutu Strait is an international waterway located near Tawi-Tawi that is within the Philippines’ archipelagic and territorial waters. Foreign commercial ships have the right of innocent passage when passing through the country’s territorial waters, while foreign warships should at least inform Philippine authorities beforehand.
“Ang gusto kong malaman saan sila galing. Where did they come from? Where are they going? Obviously, they are going back to China pero ang mas malaking question, saan sila galing at bakit sila dumadaan sa Sibutu Strait?” Lorenzana said.
“I think it’s not innocent anymore dahil palagi na yan eh. Saka they don’t inform us, ‘Huy dadaan kami, makikiraan po.’ Ganun lang naman yung sa ‘tin eh. Why the secrecy?” he added.
Last week, the Philippine government also protested the presence of two Chinese survey ships reportedly seen within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Lorenzana said the Chinese warships also shut off their automatic identification system (AIS), a tracker of vessels when passing through Philippine waters.
“Wala naman sila ginagawang masama na uma-atake sa ‘tin or whatever. Nakakainis lang dahil tubig natin at warships sila. Buti sana kung civilian. Pinapatay pa identification system, so nakakainis lang,” the defense chief said.
Last July, Lorenzana said he was told by Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua that he would require the People’s Liberation Army Navy to inform the embassy when passing through Philippine waters.
“I thought you are going to talk to the PLA Navy to inform you. But until now, you haven’t informed us on the passage of Chinese warships there,” he said.
Armed Forces chief Benjamin Madrigal Jr., meanwhile, stressed the need for coordination when passing through Philippine waters to avoid “unnecessary confrontations” at sea.
“Mas maganda kung napag-uusapan or yung mga coordinations, para masigurado na hindi nava-violate ang ating territory,” he told reporters.
“Hindi lang naman yung threat, kasama dyan yung respeto sa ating teritoryo at respeto sa kapwa,” he added./ac
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