DND chief bares Philippines intrusion by China warships

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star
DND chief bares Philippines intrusion by China warships
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and PCG commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino during the turnover.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Four Chinese warships have entered and sailed through the country’s territorial waters in beween Sibutu Island and Bongao, Tawi-Tawi at least three times since February without any prior coordination with Philippine authorities.

This was bared yesterday by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said he raised the issue with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in a chance meeting during President Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday at the Batasang Pambansa complex.

“They should inform us if they are passing through (our territorial waters) but they did not,” Lorenzana said.

“I asked (the Chinese ambassador) frankly if, indeed, Liaoning passed through Sibutu and he said no, but four smaller warships of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy,” he added.

Sibutu Strait is located between the Sibutu island town of Tawi-Tawi and Bongao town.

Lorenzana said he was assured by the Chinese ambassador that in the future, they will require theirs ships to inform the Chinese embassy in Manila about their intended passage in Sibutu.

He said the two Chinese Navy vessels were first to sail through Sibutu Strait, while the other two vessels also passed through the area in succession since February without the knowledge of Philippine security officials or concerned agencies.

“If these are warships, they should inform us only that they are passing through, but for commercial shipping there’s no need to ask permission because it’s just an innocent passage,” Lorenzana said.

Still lacking in patrol ships and equipment to monitor and guard the country’s territorial seas, the Philippine Navy (PN) is continuously facing difficulties in monitoring the presence of foreign vessels inside the country’s maritime domain.

This challenge, however, is currently being addressed by the Department of National Defense, which is scouting for big-ticket items in support of the PN’s capability upgrade projects.

Lorenzana said he would visit several European countries this coming September to “window shop” for defense equipment that would boost the Navy’s capabilities as well as that of the other two armed services, the Army and the Air Force.

He added that for now, there are a lot of military equipment being offered by European countries and he would have to see if these defense items are the ones needed by the military.

France is offering a submarine while Portugal and Spain are offering their warships, according to Lorenzana.

The Czech Republic is likewise offering guns and firearms, while the United Kingdom is offering various types of military equipment.



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