AFP: DFA now taking the lead in Spratlys issue

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said that it’s now taking a ‘handsoff policy’ on the issue of Chinese incursion on the Philippine-claimed territory in the disputed Spratlys chain of islands in the South China sea.

AFP spokesman, Commodore Miguel Rodriguez, said that the issue of incursion of Chinese troops in the disputed chain of islands is now of diplomatic concern that should best be handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“I understand that the DFA has come up with a statement and also filed a diplomatic protest and so the ball is now with the DFA. We will have no further statement regarding this affair,” Rodriguez said in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.

The AFP spokesman added, “We will just continue with what we are doing as mandated by the Constitution which is to protect our people, to ensure the integrity of our territory and also to ensure the sovereignty of state.”

But the AFP officials added that in light of the said construction of ‘military’ type facility in the disputed area, the AFP still has to strengthen maritime awareness to detect and prevent foreign intrusions.

“I think our monitoring in that area is sufficient. We also have good awareness, although we really need to enhance our maritime awareness because we are basically a maritime nation,” Rodriguez said.

The AFP spokesman added, “This is a capability that is really desired for by the Armed Forces, not only for the western Philippines sea but for the entire archipelago.”

AFP chief of staff, General Eduardo Oban, Jr., said Wednesday that they will be increasing the number of coast watch stations and radars in the western Philippines to better monitor foreign intrusions.

DFA has already summoned early this week the Chinese charge d’affaires in Manila to explain the reported incursions of Chinese ships into Philippine territory at the Iroquois Reef-Amy Douglas Bank last May 21 and 24.

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