‘Weak’ defense admitted

BECAUSE of limited equipment, the Philippines is practically incapable of defending its territorial seas against Chinese incursions.

This was admitted by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during the budget deliberation in the House of Representatives.

Members of the House Committee on Appropriations asked Lorenzana tabout he country’s preparedness against incursions of the Chinese.

“Currently, we only have a very small capability to react to these intrusions because our territorial sea is very vast and we only have a few equipment,” Lorenzana  said in response to the question of Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor.

Lorenzana stressed that the Armed Forces has “very weak” capability and “few personnel” to  defend the country’s territorial waters.

Currently, the government lacks “coast guard assets” in Sibutu Passage, which separates Tawi-Tawi province from Sabah, and in Bongao.

Western Mindanao Command chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana earlier said Chinese warships, including a surveillance vessel, sailed through the Sibutu Strait at least three times this month. Two incursions in the same area were also recorded in July.

Sibutu Straight is covered by a trilateral agreement between Manila, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur where they have put in place a system of navigation corridors, and required all vessels to make use of such corridors to enhance the security of the area which is fraught with risks of piracy, sea robbery and terrorism at sea.

However, Lorenzana said that while the country is ill-equipped to deal with such problems, he remains optimistic that things will improve because of the ongoing AFP modernization program, amounting to P25 billion.

The DND is proposing a budget of P189 billion for 2020 which excludes the P69 billion budget for pensions.

Out of the P189 billion DND budget, P183.3 billion will go to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The allocation for civilian agencies totals P5.34 billion which is 11.3 percent lower than the 2019 appropriations.