DND says no neglecting PH sovereignty despite military work on pandemic, typhoon relief
MANILA, Philippines—Threats to Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea remained top of mind for security officials even as the country’s defense and military establishments are tied up with humanitarian work on the COVID-19 pandemic and a succession of typhoons.
At an online forum on the West Philippine Sea hosted by the Department of National Defense (DND) on its 81st anniversary, Defense Undersecretary Arnel Duco said although the DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had been busy with pandemic and disaster response, they haven’t lost sight of external defense issues.
“Securing the sovereignty of the state and protecting the national territory remain to be part of the department’s duty,” he said at the forum.
The forum, “Continuity in the Evolving New Normal: the Philippines’ National Security Challenges in the South China Sea,” brought together more than 200 officials and DND officials. Legal and academic experts were invited to speak, the DND said.
Details were not given but the DND said Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria, Western Command chief, and Maj. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Northern Luzon Command chief, discussed their efforts to address challenges in the West Philippine Sea. The two commands have jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea.
China, amid the COVID-19 pandemic which started in one of its provinces, continues its aggressive enforcement of its claim to own nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.
A foreign security analyst at an online maritime security forum hosted by the Philippine Navy’s Office of the Naval Strategic Studies said that COVID-19 has not disrupted Chinese Coast Guard operations in disputed areas.
While tensions continued to rise, another security expert said there was no major crisis in the South China Sea because of China’s use of a gray zone strategy, or aggression without full scale war.
The Philippines, China, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important waterways.
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