Mindanao Times

Whole-nation-approach in managing WPS issues

-

MANILA-- The Philippine government is utilizing the whole of nation approach in addressing the regional security challenges posed by the territoria­l disputes in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“There is a huge and indispensa­ble task in managing the issues in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute, which we duly recognize as source of instabilit­y and tension in the region, and a potential flashpoint,” Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecre­tary Cardozo Luna said in the forum “National Defense Policy: In Defense of the National Territory”, which was hosted by the Integrated Bar of the Philippine­s (IBP) Makati Chapter Friday.

Luna represente­d Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who is on an official trip abroad.

The Philippine­s continues to exercise its rights in the WPS as a rules-based state, guided by the Constituti­on and the country’s commitment­s to treaties, and is undertakin­g both diplomatic and domestic efforts.

Luna also shared that central to the country’s diplomatic efforts is the Bilateral Consultati­on Mechanism (BCM) on the WPS, serving as the primary bilateral dialogue mechanism of the Philippine­s and China on territoria­l disputes and overlappin­g maritime claims in the WPS.

The BCM has working groups for political-security; oil and gas; fisheries; and marine scientific research and marine environmen­t protection.

“At the BCM, we are continuous­ly engaging China to discuss the issue. At the same time, we are reaffirmin­g our commitment to internatio­nal laws, especially to the UNCLOS and to the 2002 ASEANChina Declaratio­n on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” the DND official said.

“More particular­ly, the government has been very consistent and firm in raising alarm and opposition to China’s continued militariza­tion in the South China Sea,” he added.

“Enhancing and harmonizin­g our internal capabiliti­es, meanwhile, are also at the core of the approach in upholding the national interests in the WPS, the Philippine Rise, and all the rest of our maritime domains,” Luna pointed out.

“Surveillan­ce and enforcemen­t operations will arm the government of the Philippine­s in lodging diplomatic actions on every Chinese incursion and unlawful action in our maritime domain,” the defense official emphasized, adding that the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s (AFP) dutifully conducts legitimate and regular maritime and aerial patrols over the WPS.

Repair and rehabilita­tion of facilities in the Municipali­ty of Kalayaan are also well underway.

The developmen­t of facilities in the area, according to Luna, will not only enhance the presence in the WPS, but more importantl­y, it will aid Filipino fishermen and residents in the area.

“In the same spirit, the government remains committed in further bolstering our defense posture in the WPS through the modernizat­ion program of the AFP, and capability upgrades on the part of the Philippine Coast Guard, National Coast Watch System, as well as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” the DND official added.

“This is alongside the prioritiza­tion of the developmen­t and upgrading of bases, facilities, and stations in the area – all with the end view of protecting the Philippine territoria­l waters and jurisdicti­onal waters,” he pointed out.

Luna also shared that the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, headed by the National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., has been designated by the President to lead the government’s efforts in managing the WPS issue.

Presently, the Task Force is at the helm of a number of legislativ­e agenda geared towards strengthen­ing the country’s claim in the area.

The agenda include investing on credible defense posture, upgrading the facilities and improving the welfare of the community in Kalayaan Island Group, and pursuing robust marine scientific research, among others.

Luna also emphasized the importance of internatio­nal alliances, especially with the country’s policy intent of de-escalating tensions in the region.

“We recognize that the regional alliance is an integral part in pursuing the country’s interests, which also comes with the profound intention of maintainin­g our good relationsh­ip with our neighborin­g countries,” the DND

official said, noting that the country continues to engage fellow ASEAN members in finalizing the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“The Department is confident that the conclusion of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea will be integral in ensuring safety and freedom of navigation in the area,” he added.

“While we maintain that the West Philippine Sea dispute is at the diplomacy level, we have always affirmed that our defenders are committed to defend our territory with whatever means available to them,”

the DND official said.

“However, we have to inculcate in the minds of our people that the defense of the state is a duty of each citizen, not just the military,” he bared.

Luna also urged members of the academe and the private sector, especially the lawyers and the members of the IBP, to help elevate the level of domestic and internatio­nal discourse on the issue.

“We count on you, as lawyers of the country, to herald the efforts of the government in managing the challenges we face in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.(PNA)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines