By Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri
The Senate has ratified next year’s national budget that included institutional amendments that will provide the much-needed boost to the country’s defensive posture in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
As we have learned from the constant bullying and aggression of China against Filipino fishermen and our protectors in the WPS and our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), we badly need to upgrade our capabilities in patrolling our seas.
At the bicameral committee conference hearing on the P5.768 trillion 2024 General Appropriations Act, we fought and consistently maintained for the inclusion of an additional budget of P10.47 billion to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities and enhance presence in the WPS.
Specifically, a P6.17 billion has been added to the budget of the Department of National Defense for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Philippine Navy, P2.8 billion for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), P1 billion for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica), and P500 million for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The funds will be used for the purchase of additional patrol ships and other defense equipment.
Our brave Coast Guard and Navy, even with their limited mobility and equipment, are not wanting in courage and bravery in standing up to their Chinese oppressors. I say to you, take heart because your Congress sees your situation and has done its part to address the deficiency.
You have been an inspiration to us all by giving us a much-needed boost in our own courage and bravery.
The 2024 national budget also includes funds for the establishment of a Marine Research Center in the islands of the WPS that will be under the control and management of the DENR.
These research centers are envisioned to bolster the Philippines’s right to the islands in the WPS as well as its EEZ as upheld in 2016 by the ruling of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
We hope that this boost in funds for the purchase of additional patrol ships and defense equipment will also boost the morale of our brave Coast Guard and soldiers in protecting our EEZ.
Last week, another incident of Chinese aggression was recorded against vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources that were providing supplies to Filipino fishermen near Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal.
We condemn this latest attack of China on Filipino vessels, a heartless attack on a humanitarian operation to aid Filipino fishermen.