‘Not designed to anger China’: Escudero seeks P100M for Ayungin
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero is proposing at least P100 million in next year’s budget to fund the construction of permanent structures in Ayungin Shoal.
Escudero said the structures would serve as “lodging” for soldiers stationed in the area and fishermen “who might seek temporary refuge in times of bad weather.”
“This proposal is not designed to anger China or bring us closer to the brink (of war),” he stressed in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is just to give the president flexibility to act as the chief architect of our foreign policy as he deems fit. Otherwise, we will have to wait another year if he decides to do so sometime next year without any budget cover,” the senator pointed out.
Escudero explained under budget rules. The Chief Executive can augment any item in the General Appropriations Act.
“So he can increase the budget as he deems fit but subject to existing rules,” the lawmaker said.
He suggested the funding for these structures could be lodged under the budget of civilian agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways or the Philippine Coast Guard.
The lawmaker noted China also built a structure in the area of dispute, despite opposition from the Philippines.
“I don’t think anything prevents us from at least allocating funds in order to give the president flexibility to make the accommodations in that shoal more acceptable for our soldiers who are there, instead of living in a dilapidated old ship,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ program “The Source.”
The senator was referring to BRP Sierra Madre, which was deliberately grounded in the shoal in 1999.
This is not the first time that Escudero recommended the construction of permanent structures in the contested territory.
When he was still governor of Sorsogon, he made the same call after China Coast Guard had blocked Phillippine vessels and used a water cannon to assault the ship.
The boats were delivering supplies to troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea
The water cannon attack by Chinese troops that then-governor Escudero had condemned occurred on November 16, 2021.