Lorenzana: PH not giving up claims at WPS

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    IT may not show but the government is not giving up its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea to China despite the administration’s perceived subservience to the Asian superpower.

    Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told congressmen yesterday during the budget deliberations on his department’s P208.7 proposed national budget for 2021 that it is not surrendering the country’s interests in the WPS even if China has occupied and even militarized some of the islands.

    Lorenzana admitted that Chinese activities at the Subi, Mischief and Fierry Cross reefs continue but the Philippine government is not abandoning its claims.

    “Mr. Secretary, hindi naman ibig sabihin nito ay ibinibigay na natin sa China yung teritoryo ‘di ba? (It doesn’t mean that we’re giving to China our territories, right?” ACTS-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chair of the House committee on appropriations, asked Lorenzana, who replied, “Hindi po (no).”

    “So tuloy ang laban (So the fight continues),” Yap continued, prompting Lorenzana to say: “Tuloy-tuloy (it continues).”

    Despite its limited assets, Lorenzana said the Philippine Navy and the Air Force continue to patrol some of the areas in the WPS to assert the country’s claims over them.

    He said the country’s construction activities in the Pag-asa island also continue, adding that an airport will be built there before the end of the year.

    The DND will receive the second highest budget under the P4.5 trillion proposed national budget for 21021, next to the Department of Health.

    From P191.7 billion this year, the DND’s budget has risen to P208.7 billion for 2021 or an increase of nine percent.

    The increase will go to Personnel Services worth P2.4 Billion; P7.6 billion for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay of P6.89 billion.

    President Duterte has been drawing flak for his supposed “defeatist” stance in protecting the country’s interest in WPS or the South China Sea.

    Among those who have criticized the President for his defeatist stance was Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who said letting an adversary know the helplessness of the Philippines will discourage other countries from supporting the country.

    Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, had initial discussions about the dispute in the past but the two leaders moved on to discuss other aspects of relations between the two countries.

    China claims most of the South China Sea while the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam are claiming parts of it.