Monday, August 26, 2019

Philippines has 'weak capability' to defend own waters — Lorenzana

From the Philippine Star (Aug 27, 2019): Philippines has 'weak capability' to defend own waters — Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday admitted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has a "very weak capability" to respond to intrusions in its waters.

During the budget hearing of the Department of National Defense at the House of Representatives, the Defense chief cited insufficient resources to defend the country's territorial waters.

Lorenzana made this comment in reaction to questions raised about the reported presence of Chinese warships and survey vessels inside the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Defense chief told the House panel that the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi will be guarded.

Lorenzana earlier bared that four Chinese warships passed through Sibutu Strait since February.

In an interview with One News' "The Chiefs" earlier this month, Lorenzana said Beijing appears to be "taunting" Manila by deploying warships through Philippine waters.

According to Lorenzana, the Philippine Navy is currently drawing up protocols to challenge foreign warships entering the country's territorial waters.

The secretary, however, clarified that other navies, such as those from the United States. New Zealand, Australian, United Kingdom, Japan and Russia have been passing through Philippine waters, although they inform the government if they are passing through.

"Ang nakapagtataka lang po doon sa Sibutu Strait ay daan nang daan ang mga barkong pandigma ng Tsina. Di man lang sila nagsasabi," Lorenzana told the House panel. (What is puzzling is that Chinese warships keep on passing through Sibutu Strait. They don't even tell us about it)

RELATED: Government vows ‘unfriendly’ response to ship intrusions

"To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the president is putting on notice that beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on August 20.

The country generally does not require foreign ships to ask permission as it is considered an international maritime passageway.

Chinese warships turn off their automatic identification system when passing through the country's waters, the Defense secretary said.

"Had they just told us that they are coming or they are passing through (there would be no problem)," Lorenzana said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier announced that his department would be firing off a diplomatic protest following the passage of Chinese warships through the Sibutu Strait.

Locsin's decision came after Lorenzana said the Chinese Embassy in Manila should explain why Beijing's warships are entering Philippine waters without informing the government.

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