WEST PHILIPPINE SEA. In this photo taken in April 2018, U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and several escort ships sailed in the South China Sea in a display of America's naval might during the Chinese sea drills.
WEST PHILIPPINE SEA. In this photo taken in April 2018, U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and several escort ships sailed in the South China Sea in a display of America's naval might during the Chinese sea drills.SunStar File Photo

Tolentino: PH needs to enhance ‘defense posture’ amid sea dispute

THERE is a need to strengthen the country's "defense posture" amid the ongoing tensions with China on the territorial dispute of the West Philippine Sea, Senator Francis Tolentino said.

“I really am for the strengthening of our defense posture for the protection of our fishermen,” Tolentino said in an ambush interview during the Southeastern Philippines (USeP) Obrero Campus’ 45th Commencement Exercises for its Graduate Programs on Friday, June 28.

The senator said there is a need to support the country’s maritime uniformed personnel.

He added that he was able to speak to Seaman First Class Jeffrey Facundo of the Philippine Navy, who lost his right thumb during a maritime clash with China last June 17 at the Western Command in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, on Sunday, June 23. He said Facundo was in “good spirits” despite what happened to him.

“Dapat suportahan natin ang ating mga navy and coast guard personnel natin, at ipatuloy natin ipakita ‘yung pagmamay-ari ng West Philippine Sea,” Tolentino said.

The lawmaker said that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will be signing the Senate bill Maritime Zones Act this July.

The bill aims to declare the rights and entitlements of the Philippines over its maritime zones, including the underwater features for the enjoyment and cultivation by Filipinos in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“It is the first step before we can really craft a map of the West Philippine Sea, delineating our territorial sea, internal waters, and exclusive economic zone, which we will submit to the United Nations,” he said, adding that they aim to submit the map by August this year.

The National Government clarified on Monday, June 24, 2024, that it is not downplaying the recent harassment by China to Filipino troops during the recent routine rotation and resupply (Rore) mission in Ayungin Shoal.

In a joint statement, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro said they see the latest incident in Ayungin not as a misunderstanding or an accident.

“It is a deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission. After our visit to our troops in Palawan yesterday, where the President personally talked to the troops involved in the Rore, we have now come to a conclusion that it was not a misunderstanding or an accident,” the statement read.

“We are not downplaying the incident. It was an aggressive and illegal use of force,” it added.

The officials maintained that the country’s policy that it will not give up an inch of its territory in the West Philippine Sea to any foreign power has not changed.

They reiterated that the government will not publish schedules of any Rore missions.

On June 17, China Coast Guard personnel harassed navy troops who were then conducting a Rore mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. They used tear gas, pointed the troops bladed weapons, punctured the Philippine Navy’s rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and destroyed the communication system of the boat and the cellphones of the Filipino personnel.

Eight navy personnel were injured during the incident, including one who lost his thumb due to the “intentional high-speed ramming” by the CCG to a Philippine vessel.

It took around 12 hours to rescue the wounded personnel due to the continued harassment of China.

Earlier, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said they do not consider the incident as an armed attack as it may be “a misunderstanding or an accident.”

Marcos commended the navy troops who participated in the Rore mission and awarded the wounded personnel. RGL with reports from SNS

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