DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said the defense establishment has accomplished its strategic priorities, including at the West Philippine Sea in the South China Sea, despite their preoccupation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the virtual celebration of the DND’s 81st founding anniversary, Lorenzana said the defense and military establishments have greatly improved their air coverage in the West Philippine Sea.
“Notwithstanding our preoccupation with COVID-19 response, we have fulfilled our strategic priorities,” said Lorenzana, noting that the military and other units under the defense department are playing key roles in the fight against the pandemic.
“This include securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, promoting internal stability, attaining the highest standard capability, and preparedness on disasters, to sustaining operations in support to global peace and security and pursuing good governance,” said Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said “vital infrastructures” were built in areas occupied by Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea and other areas “for territorial defense operation” during the past year.
“In compliance with the President’s instructions, the AFP also strengthened its presence in the country’s eastern seaboard in Fuga Island (in Cagayan),” Lorenzana added.
He said a beaching ramp and seaport had been completed at the Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
“This would allow heavy equipment to be brought in for the repair of the airfield and materials to improve the living conditions of our troops and civilian citizens living there,” said Lorenzana.
Lorenzana also bared what he said was a great improvement in the military’s aerial monitoring in the West Philippine Sea, which is also claimed by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
“The AFP’s air domain coverage in the West Philippine Sea has increased from 27 percent to 57 percent in 2019. This was due to our air defense surveillance radars, surveillance aircraft and long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles,” Lorenzana said.
He also noted recent acquisition of military assets, including the corvette BRP Condrado Yap and frigate BRP Jose Rizal, and six Embraer A-29B “Super Tucano” light attack aircraft.
Lorenzana said the defense department also worked for the expansion of the country’s bilateral and multi-lateral engagements with other countries “to further promote our national interest and international peace.”
Lorenzana also reported feats in the campaign against internal security threats, particularly against communist and terrorist groups, preventing the enemies from committing more atrocities.