President Duterte may have spewed defeatist and appeasing statements towards China but Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the country’s Commander-In-Chief has been firm in its stand to assert Philippine sovereignty in the South China Sea.
That is according to Lorenzana, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will not stop conducting maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group.
“As I said in my previous statement, the President’s orders have been firm and straightforward: we defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” said Lorenzana.
The Defense chief made the statement as the word between the President and former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario further heats up on the issue of the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte even went to the point of hurling invectives at Carpio and del Rosario and even went to the extent of threatening to punch and hang the latter. On Wednesday night, Duterte also challenged Carpio into a debate—which the latter accepted.
Both Carpio and del Rosario criticized Duterte for setting aside the Hague ruling that invalidates China’s nine-dash line which it uses to claim ownership of almost the entire South China Sea. The decision which favors the Philippines was released in July 2016, or during the first month of Duterte’s presidency.
Duterte, for his part, said that the international tribunal’s decision is just a piece of paper which he threatened to throw at the waste basket.
In a statement released on Thursday, Lorenzana backed the argument of Duterte.
“What President Duterte said last night (Wednesday) regarding the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) ruling is correct. There is no international law enforcement body that can enforce it,” said Lorenzana.
“However, even without the PCA ruling, we will continue to defend what is rightfully ours,” he added.
Duterte earlier said that he would not dare to deploy soldiers in the West Philippine Sea to assert Philippine sovereignty since this may only cause deaths to the Filipino soldiers. The deployment of PCG and BFAR ships is seen as a move to prevent militarization of action in the area.
A PCG ship earlier drove away seven militia-manned Chinese ships at the Sabina Shoal which is well-within the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone.