Aquino: We can't give up Philippine territories-A A +A
Monday, July 23, 2012
MANILA (6th Update, 6:21 p.m.) -- President Benigno Aquino III on Monday asserted the Philippines sovereignty over the disputed areas in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) despite China's aggression.
"There are those who say that we should let Bajo de Masinloc go; we should avoid the trouble. But if someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?" Aquino said in his third State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Aquino earlier admitted that the Philippines has no match to a powerful country like China but he said he could not just give up the country's territory and he would exhaust all means to resolve territorial dispute in a peaceful manner.
"As your leader, it is my duty to uphold the laws of our country. And as I did, tension ensued: on one hand, the Chinese had their Nine-Dash Line Theory laying claim to almost the entire West Philippine Sea; on the other, there was the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, which recognized the rights of many countries, including that of China itself," he said.
"The situation in Bajo de Masinloc has been the source of much discussion Chinese fishermen entered out territory. Our patrol boats intercepted some of their ships, which contain endangered species," he added.
"We demonstrated utmost forbearance in dealing with this issue. As a sign of our goodwill, we replaced our navy cutter with a civilian boat as soon as we could. We chose not to respond to their media's harangues. I do not think it excessive to ask that our rights be respected, just as we respect their rights as a fellow nation in a world we need to share," he added.
The Chief Executive asked for solidarity from the Filipino nation in dealing with the issue in the West Philippine Sea.
"Let us speak with one voice. Help me relay to the other side the logic of our stand," he said, adding the government has been consulting experts and ally nations in finding a resolution that is acceptable to all.
Aquino made the statement in the wake of the failure of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member nations recently to come up with a joint communiqué on issues in the West Philippines Sea.
The Philippines hopes more countries with stakes in the South China Sea would push for regional and international cooperation to help resolve disputes there.
Amid the country's standoff with China, the President reported that funds are being flowed in to country's armed forces.
He said that after over a year in the post, the government has allocated over P28 billion pesos for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.
"This will soon match the 33 billion pesos set aside for the program in the past 15 years," he said.
"And we're only getting started: if our proposed AFP modernization bill is passed in Congress, we will be able to allocate 75 billion pesos for defense within the next five years," he said.
He said the $30-million dollar fund entrusted to the country by the United States for the Defense Capability Upgrade and Sustainment of Equipment Program of the AFP "is now ready as well."
The funds are on top of the US government's assistance "in improving the way we patrol our shores under the Coast Watch Center of the Philippines, which will soon be established."
The Armed Forces, Aquino said, is likewise canvassing equipment such as cannons, personnel carriers, and frigates.
"Before long, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, our second Hamilton class cutter, will drop anchor, to partner with the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. We are not sending paper boats out to sea. Now, our 36,000 kilometers of coastline will be patrolled by more modern ships," he said.
Aquino also announced that new equipment for the armed forces will be arriving soon "to further fortify our defenses."
"Finally, our one and only C-130 that has been roaming our skies for the past 36 years will have partners: two more C-130s will once again be operational," he said.
Before the year ends, the government expects the delivery of 21 refurbished UH-1H Helicopters, four combat utility helicopters, radios and other communication equipment, rifles, the mortars, the mobile diagnostic laboratories, and station bullet assemblies that it has purchased.
Next year, 10 attack helicopters, two naval helicopters, two light aircraft, one frigate, and air force protection equipment will also be arriving, he said.
Aside from the equipment, 22,000 have been built under the AFP-PNP housing program for the police and military personnel.
"We are not doing this because we want to be an aggressor, we are not doing this because we want escalation. This is about keeping the peace. This is about protecting ourselves—something that we have long thought impossible. This is about the life of a soldier who risks his life every day; this is about his family, who awaits his safe return, despite the challenges that confront him,"
The government has been pushing for a multi-lateral approach in addressing the disputes since there are other countries aside from the Philippines and China who are also claiming some parts of the islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has opposed Chinese proposal to settle all disputes at the bilateral level because four other countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam are also claiming other islands of the South China Sea that the Philippines and China are also contesting. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)