National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the AFP has also deployed additional forces in the Sulu Sea.
Miguel De Guzman
More troops deployed in West Philippine Sea to boost claims
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed additional troops to boost the country’s occupation of islands and atolls in the South China Sea.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the AFP has also deployed additional forces in the Sulu Sea.

Esperon held a pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) conference at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) yesterday where he also announced the Department of National Defense (DND) has began rehabilitation of structures on the islands occupied by the country in the Spratlys.

“The construction of the beaching ramp and repair of runway in Pag-asa Island are now ongoing,” he said.

Esperon stressed the Duterte administration is committed to protecting the national territory and sovereignty.

Esperon added the military has effectively occupied Mavulis and Itbayat islands in Batanes with Panguan and Mardanas islands in Sitangkay, Tawi-Tawi.

The recent troop deployment over the four islands is in addition to the country’s existing nine military outposts — Rizal Reef, Ayungin Shoal, Kota, Panata, Lawak, Parola, Likas, Patag and Pag-asa in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratlys archipelago.

Esperon said the government has undertaken a series of initiatives to include sustained sea and air patrols that have covered 180,000 nautical miles and 2,400 flying hours.

Meanwhile, the government continues to engage China in relation to the country’s concerns in the West Philippine Sea through high level visits, meetings and bilateral consultation mechanism, Esperon said.

He said these engagements are aimed at improving the ability of both sides to manage developments in the West Philippine Sea so as to defuse tension, widen access of Filipino fishermen to Panatag Shoal and protect the country’s environment and marine ecosystem.

He added the Duterte administration is active in its participation in the Association of Southeast Asia (ASEAN)-China processes for the peaceful management and resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea.

Esperon said the Duterte administration is pushing for the declaration of conduct in its entirety and the framework for the code of conduct of the parties in the South China Sea.

When asked if the Philippines is preparing to go to war with China, Esperon said the national security strategy of the Duterte government is to prepare for peace.

This is consistent with President Duterte’s foreign policy strategy of being friend to all and enemy to none, he said.

Esperon said the country’s security strategy brings together the instrument of national power — diplomatic, informational, military, economic, legal, finance and intelligence.

“You use all these instruments of national power to attain your objectives for a strong republic. It is for the wellbeing of the Filipino people,” he said.

Esperon also stressed the Duterte administration will not abandon its ties with traditional allies while enhancing ties with non-traditional partners.

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