MANILA, Philippines — Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Thursday reiterated his vow to modernize the Philippine Navy (PN) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) once elected in order to improve the country’s lines of defense on its western coast, particularly the West Philippine Sea.
“It’s high time for us to redirect most of our resources in the Armed Forces to reinforce our capacity in that part of our country. Our waters from Tawi-Tawi to Batanes, kailangan malagyan natin yon ng presensya ng ating Hukbong Pandagat.”mayor isko moreno
“That’s why, about two months ago, sabi ko we will reinforce our capability with regard to our Navy and Coast Guard. Kailangan mag-invest na tayo because we are an archipelagic country,” said Moreno.
Moreno was referring to an earlier dialogue with fisherfolks in Botolan, Zambales where he vowed to be “fearless” in asserting the Hague Ruling, and build the country’s capacity to defend its waters in securing unimpeded access for small fisherfolk to abundant fishing grounds.
The 47-year-old presidential aspirant made the statements following the latest episode of Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea.
Last month, three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and fired water cannons to drive away Philippine ships en route to transport supplies to military personnel in Ayungin Shoal. This drew protest from the Philippine government, which asserted that the shoal is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Besides preventing the occurrence of similar incidents, Moreno said modernizing the Navy and the Coast Guard will also ensure that Filipino fishermen will enjoy “undeterred, peaceful, and productive fishing opportunities” in the disputed areas.
“Katulad ng pakikipag-ugnayan ko sa mga mangingisda sa Zambales, I made a guarantee that we will fish in our ocean, in our sea, within our territorial jurisdiction. We will be fearless in such a way na kailangan nating ipasunod ang ating panalo at ito ay kailangang unawain ng ibang bansa na kasapi rin naman dito,” he said.
“In the same manner, I think the Chinese government will come to its senses na if we prove to ourselves na karespe-respeto tayo, we have to do some actions like what Widodo did. Baka minsan ay kailangan yata, may golpe de gulat din na makita sila sa atin because it is ours. Hindi naman tayo makikipag-giyera, we just have to position ourselves in a very strong manner,” said Moreno.
Defending Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea is part of Moreno’s “Filipino First, Philippines First” policy, and a major factor in achieving his government’s goal of food security.
“First things first. Food security is a threat to national security. We must fish and we will fish in the West Philippine Sea. That is a guarantee that I made sa ating mga mangigisda dyan sa parte ng ating bansa,” he said.
“And we will be loyal to our country. We will be loyal to our fellow Filipinos. And that’s what matters most. Kung yan ang pamantayan, hindi na tayo maliligaw kung sino ang tunay nating amo. Ang amo natin, mga Pilipino. Ang amo natin ay bansa. We owe it to the country,” said Moreno.
In a separate interview with reporters Thursday, Moreno vowed to fight for the country’s claim over Sabah should he be elected as President.
“We must pursue it the way we do with the West Philippine Sea. If it is ours historically and we have a valid claim about it, then we must pursue it,” Moreno told reporters during his listening tour in Malabon.
“In a civilized world, in a civilized time, we must abide by law and order. And if there is a forum for that, like the United Nations, tayo, di tayo titigil. We will be fearless in claiming what is ours,” he said.
Moreno stressed that his administration will focus on legal means to pursue the country’s claim over Sabah.
“Ang gusto ko, pag gagamit tayo ng pwersa, yung legal na pamamaraan. Wag tayo magpapadala sa init at bugso ng damdamin. Baka mamaya, ma-mali tayo,” he said.
“What matters most is, tulad ng West Philippine Sea, nanalo tayo. May poder tayo. Pwede tayo mangisda doon. Pwede tayo magtaboy ng mga banyagang barko, militarymen, o sibilyan, which is mga mangingisda nila. Dapat i-capture natin because we are a sovereign country,” Moreno added.
Sabah was previously known as North Borneo before the formation of the Malaysian Federation in 1963. It lies about 500 kilometers from the Philippines.
Although Malaysia controls the territory, the Philippines has been attempting to advance its claim over Sabah since 1961.
“One of the jobs of the President is to protect the country and its people. Iyon ang unang trabaho at iyon ang gagawin natin. We will be fearless in addressing that, and we will be fair in dealing with them and we’ll be faithful to every Filipino. That’s how we are going to approach it,” Moreno said.