By Junex Doronio
September 27, 2021
LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu – Saying it is more practical, the “third force” Team Abtik in this city on Monday lauded the plan of presidential aspirant Isko Moreno that he will use the country’s defense relations with the United States to strengthen the forces of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard if he wins the presidential elections in 2022.
Pointing out that composed of more than 7,000 islands the Philippines is an archipelagic country, the 46-year-old Manila mayor — whose parents came from Antique and Northern Samar — said that he will also enforce the ruling of an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands that unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines against China over the South China Sea dispute.
“I want to protect the country, make it stronger and position ourselves in the next 20 years so that such thing that happened in the West Philippine Sea will not happen anymore in other remaining islands,” Moreno said.
Chinese vessels have swarmed around reefs in the West Philippine Sea prompting the defense officials of the current administration to send the combined forces of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFA) to conduct regular patrols over the area.
Five years ago, the five-member arbitral tribunal released a 479-page decision that invalidated China’s sweeping claims over virtually the entire South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone that China contests.
On September 11 this year, the US and Philippine defense departments had agreed to boost maritime cooperation, including resuming activities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Moreno said he will also utilize the Hague ruling as a “bargaining chip” with China in order that the Filipino fishermen will no longer be harassed while fishing at the West Philippine Sea.
The youthful presidential aspirant further said that he will pursue joint oil exploration with China under Philippine laws. (ai/mtvn)