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Maynila pass muna sa South China Sea drills ng US, 'Tsina nanunuod' — DND
Sa undated photo na ito, makikita ang protesta ng sari-saring progresibong grupo bilang pagtutol sa "panghihimasok" ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea
The STAR/KJ Rosales, File

Maynila pass muna sa South China Sea drills ng US, 'Tsina nanunuod' — DND

(Philstar.com) - February 11, 2021 - 7:02pm

Kulang din naman daw sa kagamitan

MANILA, Philippines —  Umiiwas daw muna sa tensyon sa Beijing ang Pilipinas kung kaya't hindi muna lumahok sa naval drills ng sari-saring bayan sa South China Sea, isang katubigan na pinag-aagawan ng maraming bansa.

'Yan ang ibinahagi ni Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Huwebes, sa panayam ng ANC pagdating sa drills kasama ng Amerika atbp. habang tumitindi ang panawagang madepensahan ang West Philippine Sea.

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"The main reason why we did not participate in the exercises in the South China Sea with the US and all the allies is because we didn’t have equipment to match what they are doing there," ani Lorenzana.

"Firstly, it's not to antagonize China because China is watching us here and a lot of things could be done to us by the Chinese government if they are antagonized."

Aniya, may frigates ang Pilipinas ngunit hindi ito armado. Maging ang mga barko raw ng bansa ay hindi rin equipped para rito.

Nangyayari ito habang kinukundena ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ang bagong coast guard law ng Tsina, bagay na nagbibigay "go signal" sa kanilang mga pwersa na paputukan ang mga banyagang vessels na nasa mga "territorial waters" nila.

Ang West Philippine Sea, isang lugar na pasok sa exclusive economic zone (EEZ) ng Pilipinas, ay nasa loob ng South China Sea at may presensya pa rin ng Tsina hanggang sa ngayon kahit na in-award na ito sa Maynila sa isang arbitral ruling noong 2016.

Kahapon lang nang lumabas sa pag-aaral ng ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute na mga Pilipino ang may pinakamalaking pangamba pagdating sa panghihimasok ng Tsina sa mga EEZ at continental shelf sa ASEAN region.

Sa kabila niyan, kakaonti lang ang nangangamba sa paglilibot ng Estados Unidos sa parehong erya.

"Only 12.5% of the respondents register their worry over the US’ increased military presence in the area. This concern is more pronounced in Laos (37.5%), Cambodia (30.8%) and Brunei (24.2%) while Singapore (6.3%), Vietnam (4.6%) and the Philippines (4.5%) have little qualms about it," ayon sa ISEAS study.

Sabi ni Lorenzana, taun-taong lumalahok sa mga "passage exercise" ang Philippine Navy kasama ang Amerika ngunit limitado ang kanilang pagkilos sa mga territorial waters ng bansa.

"They do this every year. We just avoid going with them in the disputed islands, in the disputed area. But we can do exercises with them within the territorial waters of the Philippines, specifically the Sulu Seas. 'Wag na muna dun sa disputed area kasi it rises the tension on both sides," ayon sa kalihim.

"The claimants there also will be alarmed that lots of exercises are going on there. As much as possible, I would not like as Defense Secretary, I would not like to be involved there because if a shooting war erupts."

Ayaw seryosohin ang pag-depensa?

Palagay naman ni Jay Batongbacal, direktor ng UP Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, tila ipinapakita raw ng pahayag ng Department of National Defense (DND) na nagdadalawang-isip ito sa paggampan ng tungkulin sa external defense.

"[It] is not really willing at this time to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to external defense, because it refuses to conduct simple exercises with its allies," ani Batongbacal.

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Gayunpaman, iginigiit ni Lorenzana na hindi nila ito ginagawa mapamalig ang ulo ng Tsina. Hindi rin daw nangangahulugan na hindi lumalaban ang bansa sa patuloy na aktibidad doon ng Beijing.

"Our relationship with China has always been, since President Duterte became president, cordial and friendly. We don’t want to muddle the issue there. As I said a while ago, they’re our close neighbor and we have a lot of interactions with them, especially trade," sambit niya. — James Relativo

CHINA DELFIN LORENZANA DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE PHILIPPINES SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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