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China threat ‘no joke:’ Hontiveros disputes DND chief’s ‘stable’ WPS situation remark

/ 10:54 AM October 13, 2020

Sen. Risa Hontiveros answers queries from PDI officers and staff during a round table interview at PDI office, March 3,2020.
INQUIRER file photo / JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said the Department of National Defense (DND) should stop downplaying external threats in the West Philippines Sea, adding that she is skeptical of claims that it is still “stable and manageable.”

“Hindi biro ang banta ng Tsina sa ating seguridad. Dapat huwag maliitin ng DND ang panganib na dala nito sa bansa at sa mga Pilipino,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

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(Chinese threat to our security is no joke, the DND should not downplay this threat against the country and the Filipinos.)

“I highly doubt that the situation in the West Philippine Sea is ‘manageable.’ Manageable ba na wala nang matitirang isda at likas-yaman sa ating karagatan? Manageable ba na wala nang magiging hanapbuhay ang mga mangingisdang Pilipino? Manageable ba na unti-unting nawawala ang ating soberanya?” she added.

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(I highly doubt that the situation in the West Philippine Sea is ‘manageable.’ Is it manageable that fish and other resources in our seas could soon vanish? Can we consider manageable the loss of income among our fishermen? That our sovereignty is at risk?)

During a Senate budget hearing on Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described as “stable as of the moment” and “manageable” the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

But Hontiveros said the the DND should reevaluate their national security threat assessment.

She emphasized that the primary mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which which includes the Army, the Air Force, and the Philippine Navy, is to protect the Philippines from external threats.

Hontiveros said internal threats should be largely addressed and managed by the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“Kung may isyu man ng insurgency, dapat ang i-capacitate ang PNP, at hindi dapat nawawala sa focus ang AFP na unang protektahan ang ating mga teritoryo lalo na sa gitna ng patuloy na panghihimasok ng Tsina,” the senator said.

(If there’s a threat of insurgency, then we should capacitate the PNP, and the focus of the AFP should not be veered away from protecting our territory from Chinese aggression.)

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“Our lifelong fight for economic and national security will be all for naught if we don’t take China’s adventurism in our territories seriously. Mas malaki silang kalaban, kaya dapat mas malaki din ang atensiyon na nilalaan sa kanila (They are the bigger enemy, that’s why we shoult put more focus on them),” she added.

Modernization program

Further, Hontiveros questioned why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only appropriated P5 billion out of the P13.2 billion that the AFP modernization program is entitled to receive from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority’s (BCDA) proceeds.

“Where’s the remaining P8.2 billion? Why is DBM not appropriating the full P13.2 billion to AFP already? Baka kaya ginagawa nalang prayoridad ang ‘internal’ threat kasi kulang sa pondo para tunay na tugunan ang ‘external’ threats,” the senator said.

(Maybe the reason why internal threats are being prioritized is because we are lacking funds to address external threats.)

She said the country cannot afford a shortage in funding for the military’s modernization program,  especially during a time “when a regional and rising global superpower is unabashedly taking resources that are 100% ours.”

JPV
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TAGS: Department of National Defense, DND, Features, Global Nation, Senator Risa Hontiveros, West Philippine Sea
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