- The AFP has been ‘aggressively and vigorously patrolling’ the West Philippine Sea
- Amid Duterte’s ‘standing order’ to the military, the AFP chief clarifies this doesn’t mean we are backing down on our territorial claim
- The military also fully supports Duterte’s ‘rules-based approach’ in dealing with WPS issues
Even if there is a standing order from President Rodrigo Duterte for the military to refrain from joining naval exercises with other countries, newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay clarified this “doesn’t mean we are backing down on our claim” in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview over CNN Philippines, Gapay said there have been continuous ‘aggressive’ patrols in the WPS and they are doing it on a daily basis.
“We are patrolling aggressively and vigorously our territorial waters and really maintaining presence in the area, and this sends a signal not only to China but other claimant countries that we are still asserting and protecting our sovereignty in that part of the country,” said Gapay.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana acknowledged there is a standing order from the President not to “involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea except our national waters, the 12 mile distance from our shores.”
Lorenzana’s statement came after Duterte admitted in his 5th state of the nation address (SONA) that he is ‘inutile’ and helpless against China’s continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea even as he proposed to pursue “diplomatic endeavors” instead.
Echoing Lorenzana’s defense of the Duterte’s “realistic and pragmatic approach”, Gapay said the military fully supports its commander-in-chief.
“We uphold the diplomatic track and of course the rules-based approach in dealing with the West Philippine Sea issue,” said the AFP chief.
Recently, the United States and Australia have earned China’s ire after both countries conducted freedom of navigation and military exercises in the disputed waters in another display of rejection of the latter’s sweeping claims to the territory contested by several countries.