Parlade hits lack of gov’t action to stop China incursions, reclamations
MANILA, Philippines — A high-ranking military official on Monday stressed the need for “political will” in defending the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, saying the military needs resources to “send the message that this government is serious about protecting its rights.”
Facing a panel of the Commission on Appointments (CA), AFP Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. criticized the supposed lack of action to stop China’s reclamation activities in the contested waters back in 2013.
This, following the question of Senator Risa Hontiveros regarding the capabilities that the Philippine military would need to safeguard the Philippines’ interests and maintain a credible defensive posture in the West Philippine Sea.
“What we need is really political will. Because if from the start we did something to stop China in its reclamation in 2013, perhaps we could have nipped from the bud this attempt by the Chinese to reclaim,” Parlade said, apparently alluding to the administration of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.
“As the military is the extension of politics, we would abide [by] whatever the President, what the Commander-in-Chief will tell us,” he added.
According to Parlade, the AFP had reported all of China’s reclamation activities “as early as 2013 and 2014.”
“All of these were documented but nobody took action on that. The Department of Foreign Affairs did not take action. The Office of the President did not take action,” he claimed.
Further, he said the National Security Council at the time “did not take action until such time that they were able to completely establish the military bases in the West Philippine Sea, and until there was this ruling from the arbitral tribunal.”
“Currently, the policy is, I don’t want to say peaceful co-existence, or to increase the stability, but of course we are not saying that we are foregoing the ruling of the arbitral tribunal, because we are still looking at this ruling,” he further said, referring to the July 2016 ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim that covers almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.
To recall, the Aquino administration brought the Philippines’ case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in January 2013, following a tense standoff between Chinese and Philippines ships at Scarborough Shoal in April 2012.
Since the initiation of the arbitration case, China has conducted several massive reclamation projects to turn submerged reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military structures and equipment.
On July 12, 2016, the PCA issued a landmark ruling in favor of the Philippines, abrogating China’s claims in the disputed strategic waters. But President Rodrigo Duterte opted to set aside the PCA decision and build a cozy relationship with China in exchange for loans and projects.
“The first capability that we need is the wherewithal to send the message that this government is serious about protecting its rights,” Parlade said.
“It doesn’t matter if we only have a few floating vessels, or fighter jets; [if] we are clear and we are equivocal about our position then I guess the message would be very clear not only to China but other places we have issues in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgardo Arevalo, however, said the military would be needing additional aircraft that can capacitate the Air Force to do its aerial patrols within the country’s territory.
With regard to the Philippine Navy, he said more patrol boats are needed to be able to conduct “regular maritime sovereignty patrols.”
“Of course, our littoral monitoring stations, [we need] to upgrade our capability to look over our borders regularly if and when, for example, the weather does not permit our aircraft and our vessels to do regular maritime and aerial domain patrols that we do,” Arevalo added.
Last week, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China over its Coast Guard’s “illegal confiscation” of fish aggregating devices installed by Filipino fishermen in a Philippine-claimed shoal off Zambales.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also said that it “resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges [to] Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines (the West Philippine Sea), Vietnam, and Taiwan.
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