MANILA, Philippines — Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea will continue despite China’s call for the Philippines to stop conducting maritime exercises and other activities that would “complicate” the situation in the region.
In a statement on Sunday, Lorenzana vowed that the position of the Philippine government on the matter will not waver.
“While we acknowledge that China’s military capability is more advanced than ours, this does not deter us from defending our national interest, and our dignity as a people, with all that we have,” Lorenzana said.
“Thus, the conduct of maritime patrol in the WPS and Kalayaan Island Group by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue. The government will not waver in its position. Walang alisan,” he added.
He also emphasized that his stance on the West Philippine Sea issue is the same with President Rodrigo Duterte’s contrary to the claims of some quarters.
“President Duterte’s orders to us have been very firm and straightforward: defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” he said.
“Yung nagsasabi na hindi kami align ng Presidente, let me clarify that my pronouncements echo the stand of our President and Commander in Chief,” he added.
As for the Philippines’ “long-standing and multi-faceted” relationship with China, Lorenzana said that the country will maintain cooperation in various areas that are “mutually beneficial to our peoples.”
“We can be cordial and cooperative with other nations but not at the expense of our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he stressed.
He further said that the latest developments in contested waters make it clear that there is a need for all stakeholders to cooperate.
“They can now take this as an opportunity to advance the values and principles we collectively affirm and profess to respect – including the peaceful settlement of disputes – as partners and as signatories to UNCLOS and all relevant international instruments,” he said.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin last week urged the Philippines to “respect” their supposed sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea and to stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.