Navy upgrades base nearest West PH Sea

Posted at 05/27/2014 4:26 PM | Updated as of 05/27/2014 11:43 PM

Aquino hopes for better ties with China

MANILA - The Philippine Navy prepares to defend the West Philippine sea as it modernizes its command post nearest the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) amid a latest skirmish between Vietnam and China off the Paracel Islands.

President Aquino spoke in an interview following his attendance in the 116th Anniversary of the Philippine Navy Open Grounds, Headquarters Naval Forces West Naval Station Carlito Cunanan Barangay Macarascas, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on Tuesday.

In his speech during the ceremony, Aquino said, "ang pagpapaunlad ng mga kagamitan natin dito ay pag papaigting din sa seguridad ng ating teritoryo at ng ating mga kapwa Pilipino sa mga lugar na ito."

He spoke ahead of the demonstration of the Naval Forces West’s capabilities.

Aquino said, “Mamaya lang masasaksihan natin ang mga pinaunlad na kakayahan ng inyong command center, na pihadong higit pang magbibigay lakas sa inyo. Kabilang dito ang kapasidad para sa weather and media monitoring at isang asset tracking system na may kakayahang tumukoy ng galaw at direksyon ng mga sasakyang pandagat sa loob ng mahigit sa tatlumpung kilometrong coverage.

"Bukod pa ito sa downlink system, at satellite-based maritime surveillance system na magpapaigting pa sa pagtatanod sa ating karagatan at magbubunsod ng mas mabilis at wastong pagresponde.

"Nariyan din ang video teleconferencing system na tutulong sa pakikipagugnayan ng command center ng Naval Forces West at sa headquarters ng Philippine Navy at sa iba pa nating units na may ganito ring teknolohiya, ang mga pagbabago pong ito bahagi lang ng malawakan nating stratehiya upang makamit ang mga layunin ng ating Philippine Navy.”

The base has been the launching pad of the Navy's activities in the South China Sea.

It has also been eyed for coverage by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States, thus potentially putting the US smack in the middle of the South China Sea disputes.

The EDCA will allow increased rotational presence of US forces in Philippine bases in exchange for capability upgrades of the Philippine military.

Us President Barack Obama said during his recent state visit to the Philippines that the US' goal is not to contain china.

BETTER TIES WITH CHINA EYED

Aquino, however, maintained he is still hoping for better relations with China

"RG, parang not everything I do is...para bang related to China. Hindi porke't kumain ako sa Chinese restaurant ibig sabihin naghahabol ako ng better relationship with them, although I want better relationship with them.

"So this is our closest geographical facility to an area where we have a lot of interest. And instead of delaying the ability of our forces to respond to anything, be it a man-made or a natural disaster, then it is logical to put them in a position where they can address the particular issue at the soonest possible time. So that's the basic issue. It is in furtherance of our interest rather than in anticipation of anybody else's acts."

In his own speech, Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Jeses Millan said there are real and present threats to the West Philippine Sea.

“The menace of various threats to national security and territorial integrity are real and present. The geopolitical landscape changes with the latest developments and volatile situation in the region," he said.

Aquino's remarks come amid latest reports of a skirmish between China and Vietnam in the Paracel Islands. Weeks ago, riots broke out in Vietnam to protest a Chinese oil rig. The discovery led to the collision of a Chinese and Vietnamese ship.

"Kakatanggap ko lang nung balita, ang tinukoy ay isa pero hindi pa natin naco-confirm, so naghihintay ako ng confirmation. Pero doon pa lang sa Myanmar sa ASEAN na dialogue, sumali na tayo doon sa page-express ng alarm sa nangyayari. At ang masakit nga nito noong bumisita sa atin si Prime Minister Tan Dung ng Vietnam, iyong 80 na ibinabahagi sa atin na report, 80 barko raw ng China na nandoon sa kasalukuyang nagbabantay ng kanilang oil rig at nagkakaroon ng tensyon ay tumaas pa raw ang bilang na 120 o 130 kung tama ang tanda ko.”

Aquino was referring to the incident weeks ago when the Chinese oil rig was discovered off the Paracel Islands. This was raised in the 4th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar.

“Naaalarma tayo dito at sumama tayo sa panawagan na meron nga tayong usapan, nandun na nga sa DOC [Declaration of Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea], iyong sa pagi-increase ng tension. Nandun nga iyong lahat nagsabi, 'will conform to international law,' lahat nagsabi ng 'peaceful negotiations' at tayo ay nababahala na bakit ganito ang nangyaring mga developments.

"Pero having said that, siyempre pinapanood natin lahat ang nangyayari diyan. Kinukuha natin 'yung mga tamang leksyon at pinag-aaralan ng ating Sandatahang Lakas, Coast Guard at ibang mga concerned agencies na kumbaga, tinitingnan ang mga possible na scenarios at ano ang appropriate response natin.

"Ngayon, kung sasabihin ko naman iyong mga response natin, e parang ibinigay ko na iyong game plan natin sa mga hindi parehong pananaw sa atin. So palagay ko ay pabayaan natin nakalihim muna iyong ating mga contigency plans."

Aquino also said he was not surprised that a constitutional challenged has been raised against the EDCA before the Supreme Court.

"That was expected. It was expected that there will be quarters that would file it, and true to form, most of those that I saw in the papers today that filed were the ones expected to file."

The Ayungin Shoal standoff, China's reclamation at Mabini Reef, and Chinese incursions Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan Island group have been raised by the Philippines in an arbitration case against China before an arbitration tribunal.

Aquino has thumbed down the idea of following China’s lead and building in uninhabited islands to assert claims.

”Well, we agreed to it in [ASEAN in] 2002 at isa sa provisions diyan, if I am not mistaken, iyong sa [nasa iyo ba iyong DOC?] Anyway, nandun sa DOC not to inhabit presently uninhabitable islands.

"So, pag nagtayo tayo ng facilities doon to inhabit a previously uninhabitable, pati tayo are guilty of violating the agreement that we all agreed to. So I don't think that is the proper way...

"So, pagtatayo nitong mga facilities nila [China], iyong pagre-reclaim doon sa Mabini, e talagang mukha namang violation of both the spirit and the letter of the DOC, which was agreed upon in 2002. And we brought this up and we will be bringing it up again before ASEAN and probably also in ITLOS [International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea].”

A non-binding Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea has failed to stem rising tensions in the area.

The anniversary on Tuesday had as its theme “Protecting our Territory, Safeguarding our Future." It is the first time in Philippine Navy history to hold its anniversary in the naval operating forces. This is to showcase the Philippine Navy's future plans of developing and improving its forward operating base in Palawan, facing the West Philippine Sea.

The anniversary celebration also saw the awarding of deserving officers, enlisted personnel, civilian employees and partners of the Philippine Navy in nation-building, maritime cooperation and other concerns.

TRIBUTE TO NAVY, MARINES

In the same ceremony, Aquino paid tribute to the Philippine Navy and Marines who outmaneuvered Chinese ships trying to block them from restocking a naval outpost in Ayungin Shoal.

During the Araw ng Kagitingan rites last month, the chief executive already paid tribute to the Marines who stood their ground at the Ayungin Shoal for a few months despite harassment by Chinese ships of restocking missions.

The Ayungin Shoal standoff, China's reclamation at Mabini Reef, and Chinese incursions Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan Island group have been raised by the Philippines in an arbitration case against China before an arbitration tribunal.

AWARDEES

Lt. Jovy G. Iringan, PN - Distinguished Aviation Cross
Lt. Ferdinand B. Gato, PN -Distinguished Navy Cross
LTJG Sherwin A. Bulahan, PN -Distinguished Navy Cross
Lt. Col. Rodel G. Martires PN(M) - Distinguished Navy Cross
TSG Olegario Q. Paredes PN(M) - Bronze Cross Medal

Hon. Rogelio L.“Babes” Singson [Secretary, DPWH] - Plaque of Appreciation

Hon. Eugenio B.“Jun” Bito-Onon, Jr. [Mayor, Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan - Plaque of Appreciation

Atty. Emmanuel S. Caluyo [Solicitor I, Office of the Solicitor General] - Plaque of Appreciation