‘I care’: Lorenzana clarifies ‘neutral’ stance on Russia-Ukraine conflict

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed hope on Saturday, Feb. 26, that Russia and Ukraine will be able to solve their differences amicably, saying he “cares” for both countries.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photo courtesy of Department of National Defense)

“I hope my recent interview won’t be taken out of context. Of course, I care. We all care, we are humans. Not only should we be aware but also be concerned of what’s happening in different parts of the world,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

“But I reiterate what I said that I hope the principal players in this developing scenario could resolve their differences in a friendly and amicable way. For now our top priority is the repatriation of our citizens from Ukraine to a safer place,” he added.

The Defense chief released the statement a day after he drew flak for saying he “doesn’t care” about Europe amid Russia's on-going military invasion in Ukraine.

In an interview at the inauguration of a new rapid exit taxiway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Friday, Lorenzana said the Philippines won’t take sides in the growing violence in Ukraine.

“Wala naman tayong pakialam sa Europe kung ano ang ginagawa nila doon, hindi naman tayo katabi ng Ukraine. ‘Yung mga bansang karatig, nagpahayag ng suporta sa Ukraine. Tayo neutral muna tayo ngayon (We don’t care about Europe or with what they are doing there, we are not near Ukraine. The countries near its borders already expressed support to Ukraine. For us, we will remain neutral for now),” Lorenzana had said.

Hours later on the same day, Lorenzana issued a press statement to give the official stand of the DND.

In the new press statement, Lorenzana said that the DND “views the developments in Ukraine with the utmost concern.”

He said the DND was “closely monitoring the situation” while the military was on stand-by to assist the government agencies tasked to lead the repatriation of the affected Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“We hope that the situation does not escalate beyond what can still be resolved through diplomacy and the international-based orders,” Lorenzana added.

On social media, netizens were quick to call out Lorenzana's stand as they likened the Russian-Ukraine conflict with the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

“How can we stay ‘neutral’ when a big country invades a small country by force? It doesn’t make sense!” one netizen commented.

“World peace and stability is a concern for all especially when injustice and suffering befalls many from the evils of leaders,” another one stated.

But there were also some social media users who agreed with Lorenzana that staying neutral might be the only option for the Philippines for now.

“It’s a wise decision not to intervene. Lorenzana has a point,” one user said.

Meanwhile, other neighboring countries in the Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam among others expressed concern about the conflict in Ukraine and called for hostilities to cease while all involved parties resolve their issues in a peaceful way.