Diplomacy has prevented the Philippines from escalating its dispute with China over territory in the West Philippine Sea in the six years of the Duterte administration, according to a national defense official.
Department of National Defense spokesman DND director Arsenio Andolong said Monday that the territorial dispute between the two countries is still considered a “diplomatic issue” beyond a military issue.
But he said the department and the military were also ready to defend the country’s territory if necessary.
“We have to manage that issue, and nobody wants to go to war per se. But you know if it comes to that, we always said that the DND and the AFP are ready to respond with whatever resources we have at hand, whatever personnel we have. However, like I said, this is still a diplomatic issue. That’s why we have mechanisms to deal with China in particular, and this is something that has kept us out of trouble over the last 6 years and I think it works,” said Andolong.
The Philippines and China have a “bilateral consultation mechanism” to prevent maritime unrest.
One of the hallmarks of foreign policy under the Duterte administration is the close relationship with China which includes not emphasizing the Philippines’ victory in the tribunal ruling against China in 2016.
Diplomacy’ works’ in Philippines-China dispute in West PH Sea – DND
Andolong added that this does not mean that the country is giving its sovereignty over the territory.
He said the patrol of Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea would continue, especially with the help of the AFP’s ongoing modernization.
He said most of the newly acquired equipment of the Philippines for the military under the Duterte admin is for territorial defense instead of just internal security.
Andolong’s statement was part of a press briefing held after the first day of the “Duterte legacy” summit led by cabinet officials.
In his recorded message at the summit, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippines had defended its territory for the past six years.
According to Lorenzana, the military has conducted nearly 7,000 naval surface patrols and more than 6,400 maritime air patrols.
In addition, Lorenzana said the new equipment would also help those who live, fish, and conduct research in the Kalayaan Island group.