Lorenzana expresses concern over China's war games in disputed areas in South China Sea
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed concern over China's recent war games conducted in the disputed areas in the South China Sea.
"We view that with alarm... If they did it in their part of the South China Sea then it's okay but if they are doing it in the contested areas then... sound the alarm bells for all the claimants here in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, including Vietnam,Malaysia, all those countries," Lorenzana said in an online forum on Thursday.
"We have been doing exercises before with the Americans here in our territorial waters and I think that is... okay. The Chinese can do theirs in their territorial waters within their exclusive economic zone and I think that's okay but if you do it here in the contested area, as I said earlier, then that's highly provocative," he added.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Lorenzana said "the tension in the West Philippine Sea continues."
"Four years after The Hague ruling that favored the Philippines, the South China Sea region remains a contested geopolitical space and a potential flashpoint," he said.
Lorenzana said "China is the most assertive and aggressive amongst the claimant states."
"Recently there has been slight increase in the... incursions and harassments perpetrated by Chinese vessels, both military and civilian, against the Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Coast Guard and fishermen," he said.
"From August 2019 to early 2020 alone almost 20 counts of harassment took place which involve the People's Liberation Army, China Coast Guard, commercial fishing vessels and Chinese maritime militia,'' said Lorenzana.
These incidents include the sinking of the Philippine fishing vessel Gemver by a Chinese fishing vessel in June 2019 and the aiming of weapons control radar of a Chinese Navy ship on a Philippine Navy ship recently, he said.
''And just couple of days back the sinking of another Filipino fishing vessel off Mindoro," he added.
Lorenzana noted that the "Chinese aggression is not exclusive to the Philippines alone."
"China also had its ( incidents)... with Vietnam and Malaysia... weighing these events the Philippine government believes that matters of sovereignty can be prudently solved or best be resolved in peaceful and diplomatic channels," he said.
Lorenzana said the Department of Foreign Affairs lodges diplomatic protests for all actions by China that violates our laws or our national sovereignty.
''At the end of the day the direction of this administration's foreign policy is to forge cooperation... we also (had a)... deferment of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States as a development towards the balancing of powers in the West," he added. Robina Asido/DMS