By Nat Mariano
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Sunday the Philippines is incapable of waging war against China to assert its rights in the West Philippine Sea.
He made his remark following the results of a recent Social Weather Stations survey showing 87 percent of adult Filipinos deemed it important for the Philippines to regain sovereignty over the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea.
He said he agreed with the others who believed the Philippines should assert its territorial claims in the disputed areas.
He believed the government could just send troops to the West Philippine Sea and defend the country’s claims.
“We cannot go to war [with China]. We all know our own capacity,” Esperon said.
He said territorial dispute should be settled through diplomatic means.
Esperon said the administration’s actions in the West Philippine Sea had allowed Filipino fishermen to fish along the disputed areas.
“With all the patrols that we conduct in our seas to know what is happening, through diplomacy and intelligence, we are able to fish once again in Bangsamoro and in several parts of the West Philippine Sea. We are benefiting from our maritime domain,” Esperon said.
Meanwhile, Malacañang said it was one with the public in seeking to fight for the country’s sovereign rights and territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement on Sunday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippines had shifted to a “friendly” dialogue with China on the issue.
“Having seen how the confrontational approach of the previous administration only spurred greater militarization, we have shifted to a conciliatory tack and friendly dialogue with China by employing a bilateral consultation mechanism to resolve issues while we build up our capability to monitor and defend our maritime interests,” Roque said.
A Pulse Asia survey showed last month that 73 percent of Filipinos believed the Duterte administration should exercise sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
The Palace, during the second anniversary of the country’s victory in its arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China, had earlier reassured the public that, even though the country was moving progressively with its economic relations with China, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration would remain firm in asserting the Philippines’ sovereignty over the disputed waters.
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