Lorenzana orders Navy to drive Chinese survey ships spotted in disputed areas
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered the Philippine Navy to drive the Chinese survey ships away when they were spotted at Benham Rise, Scarborough Shoal and Recto Bank.
“One of their (China’s) survey ship is also plying the Benham Rise already, last year. ..I think it was monitored for about three months going there… I have ordered the Navy that if they see this survey ship this year start to accost them and drive them away also from the eastern side of the Philippines,” Lorenzana said in a forum in Camp Aguinaldo Thursday.
“The very concerning thing is they have several survey ships plying this area (Scarborough Shoal), staying in one area sometimes for a month, as if doing nothing, but we believe they are actually surveying the sea floors, seabeds,” Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana said Chinese survey ships are also mostly monitored in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
“According to our marine patrol they have been monitored mostly in the Recto Bank, Reed Bank. They’ve been (there) many times because they have plotted the routes,” he said.
“It started sometime in July (2016) and it continued up to about December,” Lorenza added.
Despite his order to the Navy to drive the Chinese survey ships away from Philippine waters, Lorenzana admitted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines does not have the might to dislodge them.
“We cannot drive them away. We do not have the armaments or the might to dislodge them from those areas but we keep on protesting, even if they ignore the protest we will still protest,” he said.
Lorenzana recalled a Chinese survey ship even went to Surigao City to rush one of their personnel to a hospital for medical treatment last December.
“We still have some friends who give us satellite photos of what’s happening there and they give us ( pictures) that these ships were actually plying the Benham Rise, north of Philippines up to Surigao,” he said.
“There is no report of oil deposit there in that area but that is where the.Philippine Deep is, the trench, the Philippine trench and according to some they are actually looking for a place submarines,” he added.
Lorenzana said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has submitted more than z dozen complaints to its Chinese counterpart but he emphasized that China only denied their activities in the area.
“We have already submitted the report to the secretary of foreign affairs to make a protest to the Chinese ambassador you know, we have to protest because we have to show to these people that we consider those areas as ours,” he said.
“The DFA wrote a protest, a note verbale, a (n aide) memoire to the ambassador but most of the time according to Secretary Yasay the Chinese ambassador just deny. We are not doing that, but it cannot be denied that the thing is here. We should protest because you know what happens if you do not protest. We just lose by default what belongs to us,” he added.
“They (China) are trying to wear us down… so that later on maybe after a couple of (years)one generation of Filipinos will accept that they own it, so we'll keep on protesting,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana revealed China has planned to also reclaim Scarborough Shoal but it was stopped by the United States.
“There was a plan by the Chinese in I think May to build, to reclaim Scarborough Shoal, in fact reports, we received report from the Americans that there were barges already… loaded with soil and construction materials going to Scarborough shoal but the Americans, I think, told the Chinese don’t do it, for some reason the Chinese stopped so that the red line,” he said.
“According to the United States building something at the Scarborough Shoal is a red line to them, now the president has also stated a red line that he said once the Chinese starts exploring, putting rigs their...we'll talk to them I’m going to talk to them about this, this document, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling,” he added.
Lorenzana also assured that President Rodrigo Duterte is not setting aside the PCA ruling on the country’s claim in West Philippines Sea.
“There is misperception among us the Filipinos that the president really set aside ruling, that’s not true, he said this many times in front of us that let’s not talk about this for a while. Just let the conflict with the Chinese to allow our people to go back to their livelihood,” he said.
“Because the Chinese have been encroaching in the area already as near as about 70 or 60 miles away from Masinloc-- that is already near to us-- which according to them is still part of their nine dash line so that’s where we are now,” he added.
Lorenzana added that based on his meeting with the West Philippine Sea Task Force last Wednesday “the structures that were built by the Chinese are already very extensive”.
“They have already reclaimed maybe close to about 500 hectares, 500 hectares of land in that area,” he said. Robina Asido/DMS