Military chief admits he cannot stand up to Chinese in disputed waters

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Delfin Lorenzana and a map of the South China Sea showing Beijing’s vast claims over the disputed waters.

The Philippine Defence Secretary has echoed President Duterte’s defeatist stance on Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines had no capability to defend the country’s maritime territories and troops could only look on if China blocked resupply missions to outposts.

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“At present, we don’t have any capability to even to just demonstrate to others that we are capable. We are not capable. We don’t have the capital ships. We don’t have the weapons,” Lorenzana said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel today (Monday, June 4).

“If they block our people from resupplying our outposts there in the Spratlys, then what can we do?,” he asked.

As we recently reported, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest after a Chinese helicopter harassed a Philippine Navy rubber boat carrying supplies to Marines occupying a grounded warship in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

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Lorenzana said the country could only resort to protests, something the government also would rather keep from the public and quietly resolve with China.

“All we can do now is protest – diplomatic protest, note verbal – and have a dialogue with China. There’s nothing we can do,” he said.

Opposition Congressman Gary Alejano, a retired Marine officer, was the first to reveal how the Chinese helicopter had hovered over the boat at a “close and dangerous distance”.

Lorenzana said it was down to Congress to allocate more funds for military modernisation. “We don’t have the capabilities now. We are working double time but it depends on the funds that we get from Congress – if they allocate more funds for our modernisation programme.”

However, he emphasised that money was not the issue when it came to Pag-asa (Thitu) Island. Funds for the repair of the island’s airstrip was allocated by the previous Aquino administration but repeated protests from China had delayed the project.

As we reported, work on the airstrip finally got underway at the end of last month.

“We are trying to also pave the airstrip that so that we can bring in our aircraft anytime. At present, you can only land there after five days of sunshine. Otherwise, it is soggy and you cannot land,” Lorenzana added.

“So it will take some time for us to be ready to defend our territories the way we should have defended in the first place.”

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