SUBIC, ZAMBALES: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday said that the Philippines can now beef up its border patrols with the arrival of the country’s newest warship—BRP Alcaraz.
The President went to Subic to formally welcome the country’s second Hamilton-class cutter from the United States
The 45-year-old warship arrived last week from Charleston, South Carolina with 88 crew and Navy officials on board.
The 3,250-ton Alcaraz can withstand strong waves and can stay longer at sea than any of the Philippines’ current vessels, allowing for more extensive patrols, the navy said.
In his speech, Aquino said that BRP Alcaraz will strengthen the country’s maritime defense capabilities.
“With the arrival of BRP Alcaraz in the country, we are showing our resolve to have an Armed Forces that has true capability of protection our countrymen],” Aquino said in Filipino.
“With the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, we can strengthen the patrol of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and our capability to address any threat and lawless elements as well as launch search and rescue operations and protection of our natural resources],” he added.
The President did not mention China, which has claimed the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including areas over which the Philippines has jurisdiction.
In the first three years of his administration, Aquino said that the government spent P27.62 billion for the military’s modernization program.
This figure, he said, surpassed the expenditure of the previous administration which was P26.2 billion spent in more than nine years.
Aquino again vowed to enhance the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to improve the lives of ordinary soldiers.
“We are confident that by meeting the needs and welfare of our soldiers, we are strengthening them to uphold the security of the country and advance lasting peace],” he said.
The President thanked the US government for helping the Philippines strengthen its military.
The warship was named after Ramon Alcaraz, a member of the Philippine Navy, who fought alongside the US forces during the Second World War.
Also on Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) urged China not to divert from the “core issue” of its excessive nine-dash line claim in the West Philippine Sea after its foreign minister plotted three ways to solve the dispute.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing that “it behooves China to address” the issue of their excessive nine-dash line claim.
“On the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, we once again redirect China to the core issue which is its claim of indisputable sovereignty on nearly all West Philippine Sea under its nine-dash line position. The Philippines has asserted before the arbitral tribunal, to which China has been invited but has refused to participate, that the nine-dash line claim is expansive, excessive and in gross violation of international law, specifically Unclos [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea],” he added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a meeting with Surukiat Sathirathai, chairman of Asia Peace Reconciliation Council and former Thai deputy prime minister, proposed three ways to solve the disputes—continue bilateral negotiations and consultations, implement the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and work for a more binding Code of Conduct and mull the possibility of jointly exploring the contested waters.
China, Wang said, advocates the peaceful settlement of the disputes based on historical facts and international law.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario expressed his hopes for Asean and China to go to the negotiating table regarding the COC, as opposed to the consultative meeting that will be held in Beijing in September.
The two-month standoff at the Panatag Shoal last year triggered diplomatic spats between Manila and Beijing, with the Philippines eventually bringing the dispute before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
Catherine S. Valente and Bernice Camille V. Bauzon