Defense chief says West PH Sea situation stable, manageable
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday described the situation in the West Philippine Sea as “stable and manageable,” which will enable the country’s defense sector to focus more on internal threats.
“The external threat is being managed by our foreign affairs [department]. The situation in the West Philippine Sea is stable at the moment and manageable,” Lorenzana said during the Senate hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Monday.
“As far as we are concerned, we can focus more our attention on the internal threats which are to contain the communist insurgency and the terrorists,” he added.
Lorenzana said this after he was asked by Senator Risa Hontiveros about what he considers as the biggest threats, whether external or internal, the country is currently facing.
“We have analyzed the threats to the country and the greatest threats that we see at the moment are one: the communist insurgency that is still going on all over the country. Number two is the terrorist threat, di pa rin natin na-address,” Lorenzana said.
While Hontiveros said she understands the “enumeration” made by the defense chief, the senator said she would have expected that the DND’s top priority would be to address external threats, specifically the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines.
“Kaya ko naman pong sangayunan yung enumeration ng both external and internal threats ni Sec. Lorenzana, I would have hoped though that mas pinaka-priority pa rin ng ating DND ang external threats, lalo na sa diwa ng pagkaintindi ko sa primary mission, partikular ng Armed Forces natin na oriented nga po sa external threat,” she said.
“Bagamat alam ko na the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) plays an important supportive role to the national police lalo na sa internal threats. Yung extrenal threats na hindi lang pangunahing ang Department of Foreign Affairs ang tumutugon dito pero syempre nandun yung DND at lalo na sa West Philippine Sea, I would have hoped na yun yung number one priority,” she added.
Nevertheless, Hontiveros acknowledged previous statements made by Lorenzana “reflecting this primary concern” on external threats facing the Philippines.
“I understand also yung pagka-enumerate also ng terrorist threat dahil ito rin yung mag external at international aspects. Naintindihan ko rin historically yung paglista sa communist insurgency pero I did not expect na yun yun number one priority, dahil nandyan na nga yung national police,” the senator added.
The DND is proposing a P209.1-billion budget for 2021, an allocation Hontiveros noted is bigger than that of the Department of Health (DOH).
“Pang-apat na prayoridad ng 2021 proposed budget [and defense], mas malaki ang ilalaan sa DND kesa pa sa DOH kahit na nasa gitna tayo ng health crisis,” the lawmaker said.
“In any case, our defense establishment and the budget it’s requesting has to be tailored towards the threats the country is expecting to face,” she added.
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