Chiz Escudero to DND: build permanent structures in Ayungin Shoal to strengthen PH claim in WPS

Published December 5, 2021, 1:54 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senatorial aspirant and Sorsogon Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero on Sunday called on the Department of National Defense (DND) to install permanent structures in Ayungin Shoal to assert and strengthen the country’s presence in the contested maritime territory.

Escudero, who is seeking a fresh term in the Senate in the upcoming May 2022 elections, said installing sustainable structures within Ayungin Shoal would help boost the country’s sovereignty over its territory within the West Philippine Sea.

“Amid renewed aggressiveness from China, the Philippine government needs more than a rusting World War II-era ship to stand as the symbol of its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea. It should invest in a more functional permanent structure to serve as our military outpost,” Escudero said in a statement.

Escudero said the DND should include the construction of modern structures in the area in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) modernization budget.

“Pagkatapos ng pamamahiya na naman sa atin ng Tsina, kailangan natin magpakitang-gilas naman (After China humiliated us again, we need to show some courage),” the senator said.

“Baka isang dahilan na hindi nila tayo nirerespeto dahil nakikita ng Tsina na mukhang kawawa ang military outpost natin doon. (Maybe one of the reasons why China is not respecting us is because our military outpost there looks pitiful). Our soldiers—and our nation—deserve better, ” he stressed.

“Let us show our commitment to protecting our sovereignty by building sustainable and dignified structures that will allow our military to properly defend our rights to the West Philippine Sea. I strongly urge the DND to include this in their modernization budget for 2022,” he reiterated.

Last November, President Duterte slammed the incident wherein Chinese Coast Guard ships blocked and launched a water cannon attack against Philippine supply boats that were on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, saying it does not speak well of China-Philippines relations.

Following the water cannon attack, Beijing reiterated its call for the Philippines to remove the Philippine Naval vessel which ran aground in Ayungin Shoal, which the government rejected.

Escudero noted the DND has asked Congress for a P297-billion budget for next year, of which a huge chunk would go to the AFP’s modernization program.

“The law is very clear on this: the modernization fund is there precisely to equip and empower our military to defend our sovereignty. And nowhere is that more needed than in the West Philippine Sea,” he stressed.