Lorenzana defends US officials’ visit to PH

Published December 11, 2020, 1:52 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the recent visit of top officials of United States to the Philippines should not be seen as a means to antagonize other countries, particularly China.

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Lorenzana made the remark Thursday after the Chinese Embassy in Manila accused US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien of supposedly creating “chaos” during his trip to the country last month.

“That is their (China’s) opinion. Tayo naman, hindi naman natin nakikitang ganoon eh (For us, we do not see it that way). They are here to maintain their relationship with the Philippines because we have the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) at saka matagal na silang ally (Americans have been our ally for a long time),” said Lorenzana in a bid to appease China.

According to the Defense chief, China must have taken offense on the visit of O’Brien to the Philippines since they do not want other countries to meddle with the affairs of Beijing and Manila especially when talking about the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

“Ang tingin ko, ayaw nilang may nakikialam na mga foreign powers dito sa Southeast Asia (I think they don’t want foreign powers to meddle with the affairs of Southeast Asia),” Lorenzana said.

O’Brien, the top security adviser of outgoing US President Donald Trump, came to the Philippines and donated P868-million ($18-million) worth of precision-guided missiles and munitions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines last Nov. 23.

In his remarks, O’Brien expressed support to the Philippines as it continues to defend its maritime claims in the disputed waters.

“Our message is we’re going to be here, we’ve got your back, and we’re not leaving. We’re not going to be pushed out of the Indo-Pacific region. We’re going to fight for a free and open Indo-Pacific region with all our friends and partners,” he said.

In response, the Chinese Embassy said O’Brien’s statement was uncalled for as it “wantonly incite confrontation.”

“It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability but to create chaos in the region in order to seek the selfish interests of the US,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement on Nov. 23.

Both US and China are courting the Philippines to favor its side as the power struggle between the two superpowers in the region continues.

Lorenzana was trying to ease the situation as he had said that the Philippines would inevitably be caught in the line of fire when US and China’s tension turns into a shooting war.

Aside from O’Brien, other US officials who visited the country in the past two weeks were US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and US Secretary of Air Force Barbara Barrett.

Miller turned over P1.38-billion ($29-million) worth of defense gears during his Dec. 8 visit while Barrett handed the Philippine Air Force its first ever advanced fixed-wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) worth P710 million during her Nov. 25 trip.