Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the Department of National Defense (DND) to stop downplaying the external threats in the West Philippine Sea as “stable and describing it as stable and manageable, saying China’s repeated incursions in the territory is a real national security threat.
“I highly doubt that the situation in the West Philippine Sea is ‘manageable.’ Manageable ba na wala nang matitirang isda at likas-yaman sa ating karagatan? (Is it manageable if we have no more fish and marine resources left to us?)” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Manageable ba na wala nang magiging hanapbuhay ang mga mangingisdang Pilipino? Manageable ba na unti-unting nawawala ang ating soberanya? (Is it manageable if our fishermen lose their livelihood? Is it manageable if we lose our sovereignty?),” the senator asked.
The DND, she said, should reevaluate its national security threat assessment pointing out that the primary mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is to protect the Philippines from external threats.
“Our lifelong fight for economic and national security will be all for naught if we don’t take China’s adventurism in our territories seriously,” she said.
“Mas malaki silang kalaban, kaya dapat mas malaki din ang atensiyon na nilalaan sa kanila, (They are a bigger opponent, so we should give them bigger attention)” she added.
During the Senate’s hearing on the DND budget, Hontiveros questioned why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only appropriated P5-billion out of the P13.2-billion that the AFP modernization program is entitled to receive from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority’s (BCDA) proceeds.
“Where’s the remaining P8.2 billion? Why is DBM not appropriating the full P13.2 billion to AFP already?” she asked.
“Baka kaya ginagawa nalang prayoridad ang ‘internal’ threat kasi kulang sa pondo para tunay na tugunan ang ‘external’ threats, (Maybe that’s the reason why they are prioritizing ‘internal’ threats because they lack funds to solve ‘external threats’,” the senator said referring to the government’s thrust to resolve insurgency.
Hontiveros said the Senate should start hearing her proposed Senate Resolution 520 that seeks a Senate-led “comprehensive audit” of the AFP’s use of its shares in BCDA’s earnings over the years. These shares, she said, are supposed to address the funding for the AFP Modernization program.
“We cannot afford a shortage of funding for the AFP modernization program, especially during a time when a regional and rising global superpower is unabashedly taking resources that are 100 percent ours,” the lawmaker said.
“Hindi biro ang banta ng Tsina sa ating seguridad. Dapat huwag maliitin ng DND ang panganib na dala nito sa bansa at sa mga Pilipino (China’s threat to our security is no joke. The DND should not belittle the dangers and risks it may bring to our nation and to all Filipinos),” Hontiveros said.