The landmark arbitral award on the South China Sea (SCS) arbitration pushes the Department of National Defense (DND) to improve the territorial defense capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a ranking official bared Friday, July 14.
(File photo: MANILA BULLETIN)
DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) tribunal ruling on the SCS underscored the primacy of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which serves as an “anchor” for the DND to protect the country’s national interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“It [arbitral award] shall continue to underpin our efforts to modernize the territorial defense capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Andolong noted.
The third horizon of the AFP’s modernization program focuses on the acquisition of sophisticated assets such as multi-role fighter aircraft, radars, frigates, missile systems and rescue helicopters.
Earlier this week, the AFP said that additional budget allocation is being considered for the procurement of naval and aerial assets as the AFP shifts its attention to external defense from internal security operations amid emerging security threats in the Indo-Pacific region.
Andolong added that the award also inspires the DND to enhance its security engagements and collaboration with regional partners, and support the nation’s courses of action for the maintenance of an orderly peace in SCS.
Last July 12, the Philippines commemorated the seventh anniversary of the PCA’s publication of the arbitral award.
The PCA published on July 12, 2016 its decision on the arbitration case that was filed by the Philippines against China in 2013.
According to the decision, there are no lawful effects on China’s historic rights claims over the maritime areas inside their so-called “nine-dash line” in the SCS and, therefore, it has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the areas, including those inside the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines or the WPS.
But seven years since, China continues to ignore the ruling. China, in a press statement from its embassy in Manila, said that the award was “illegal, null and void” as it stood by its claims over the disputed waters.
Despite this, Andolong said the DND will continue to defend the country’s interests in the WPS despite recent aggression by China such as the swarming of Sino vessels in Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and other parts of WPS.
“The DND stands fully behind this victory of the Filipino people, which cannot be frittered nor bargained away. Keeping true to our sworn mandate to our people, we continue to work on making the Philippines an archipelago of stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” Andolong said. — Martin Sadongdong
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