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DND: No need for military buildup in Spratlys

MANILA, Philippines — There’s no need for a Philippine military buildup in the Spratlys archipelago as the security environment in the region is seen to have greatly improved with President Duterte’s rapport with Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s commitment to fast-track the adoption of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

“If you tighten the security, it means that they are expecting somebody will attack you. Nobody is attacking somebody out there,” Lorenzana said.

“He went to China and immediately after his meeting with President Xi Jinping, tension in the region has gone down,” he said, referring to Duterte’s visit to China last May.

Lorenzana said the decision not to further bolster military readiness in the region is based on trust in ASEAN member-nations’ commitment to respect sovereignty and stick to dialogue in settling territorial disputes.

Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea and whose island building activities have sparked tensions in the region, has agreed on the need for a COC to avert miscalculation in disputed waters.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea.

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“The benefit here is there will be no miscalculation, misunderstanding and there will be unlimited access to our fishermen,” Lorenzana said.

A cessation of military buildup in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea would also pave the way for unhampered development of civilian and miliary facilities in Pag-asa Island and those on the eight other Philippine military outposts in the Kalayaan Island Group.

The second biggest island in the region next to Taiwan’s occupied Itu Abu, Pag-asa is also a fifth class municipality of Palawan.

The government is building a port on Pag-asa Island to allow Navy cargo vessels to unload construction materials for the improvement of facilities in the area, including the concreting of Rancdulo Airfield.

Bad weather, however, is hampering the construction of a beaching ramp by civilian contractor Luzviminda Construction Co.

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