Secretary Lorenzana: All Filipinos are behind you
My heart feels warm and patriotic with the powerful declarations of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana against the recent Chinese intrusion on our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), particularly the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef). For the first time in decades, a very credible Cabinet member has spoken against this “creeping invasion” on our territory to the point of telling them we are not fools.
President Duterte, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., senators including the opposition, House members, all showed unity behind Lorenzana in upholding sovereignty over the 200-nautical mile EEZ, a fact recognized by the international community and the UNCLOS.
As a matter of fact, what should prevail here is the status quo principle under the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the progressing China-Asean South China sea Code of Conduct (COC). This was signed in 2019 and all parties agreed to finalize this within three years or in 2022. All actions, disagreements by claimant nations would be regulated through settlement mechanisms and conflict management.
But China still circumvents and its version of status quo is militarizing and occupying these rocks with its fishermen. This enables them to pursue their geopolitical interests and redefine the geographic scope of the South China Sea, which they perceive as their private lake.
This is totally unacceptable and Secretary Lorenzana was correct in ordering the immediate departure of more than 200 Chinese vessels from this reef. The Philippine Air Force has been patrolling these areas and our pilots continue to receive warnings from Chinese military that we are intruding on their airspace, but this is a risk we have to take in enforcing our sovereignty over those areas.
Actually, we cannot allow anymore the repeat of the Chinese takeover of Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in 1995 and their attempted reclamation and construction work at Bajo de Masinloc-Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in 2012, while then under the watch of previously weaker Philippine administrations.
And today, an intensified war of words with China is happening, highlighted by their embassy’s tirade against Secretary Lorenzana’s as “perflexing” and “unprofessional”. In answer, our government called this new intrusion as another attempt to promote the “clearly false narrative of China’s expansive and illegitimate claims”.
Of course, we are in very dangerous times and fears of “accidental confrontation” may happen. But we are hopeful that the heated arguments will not escalate and perhaps resolved peacefully within the prevailing DOC and COC of Asean and China over disputes.
Meantime, we must continue to be vigilant and not passive or silent against this new Chinese intrusion. By being aggressive in exposing these new violations by China, Secretary Lorenzana is correct and on the right side of history.
We have learned from the past and this repeated trampling and mocking of our sovereignty as a nation is something we must confront. The Julian Felipe Reef is just 175 nautical miles from Bataraza, Palawan, and very near our inhabited Pag-asa Island. The Chinese have taken control of Mabini (Johnson Reef) Kagitingan (Fiery Reef) Zamora (Subi Reef) and reportedly built new maritime structures also on Pagkakaisa banks, all part of Kalayaan Island group.
Secretary Lorenzana is a true nationalist with more than four decades of serving our nation in defense and foreign relations. His unequivocal stand against China’s “slow and bullying expropriation” of our territories is supported by the whole nation. His fight to stop intrusions on every inch of our territory by Chinese or other foreigners is a fight not only for all of us today but for future generations of Filipinos as well.
Snappy salute sir!
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