By Job Manahan | ABS-CBN News
MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) on Monday urged the incoming Marcos administration to pursue diplomacy in dealing with issues related to the West Philippine Sea, saying this is among the strategies "that worked" under the current government.
Defense spokesperson Dir. Arsenio Andolong said the standoffs and harassments reported in the resource-rich waters trigger a "bilateral consultation mechanism" with the country involved in the maritime issue.
"Ito ay isang issue na hindi lang [Armed Forces of the Philippines] at DND ang humahawak. Kasama din dito ang [Department of Foreign Affairs] na kapag may nangyayaring ganyan ay tuloy-tuloy na yung pagpo-protesta," Andolong told reporters shortly after the "Duterte Legacy Summit" in Pasay City.
"This is still a diplomatic issue that's why we have mechanisms to deal with China in particular, and this is something that has kept us out of trouble over the last six years. And I think it works," he added.
Manila is locked in a dispute with Beijing over West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the resource-rich South China Sea. Beijing continues to claim the South China Sea in its near entirety despite an arbitration court invalidating it.
The Philippine government has filed more than 200 diplomatic protests against China since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.
Andolong said it does not mean the country is surrendering its sovereign rights when it pursues a diplomatic approach.
"Tayo naman ay we try to keep it balanced. Kasi tuwing may ganyang insidente na nangyayari ay iniiwasan natin ay magkaroon ng escalation na tinatawag," he said.
"You know, we will not allow this to happen na ganoon ganoon na lang. Pero kailangan binabalanse na yan. Sabi nga ni Kalihim (Delfin) Lorenzana, ang susi dito ay ima-manage natin yung sitwasyon na huwag lumala."
The government, he said, has ramped up naval and aerial presence in the West Philippine Sea so they would know what is happening there.
He assured the public that they respond quickly when it comes to any incidents stemming from any incursions in the country's waters.
If there comes to a point the country had to go to war to China because of it, he said: "Like what I mentioned earlier, we have to manage that issue and nobody wants [war]".
"But you know, if it comes to that, we always said that the DND and the AFP are ready to respond with whatever resources we have at hand, whatever personnel we have."
Last week, President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said he will assert the Philippines' claim in the West Philippine Sea while continuing to pursue bilateral contact with China.
"We will not allow a singe square millimeter of our maritime coastal rights to be trampled upon," he said.
"How do we do that? We talk to China consistently with a firm voice. Hindi naman natin puwedeng gerahin (We cannot wage war against them)," he said.
The incoming leader described the Philippines' Hague victory as a "very important ruling in our favor" that the country would "use."