MANILA The maritime row in the West Philippine Sea remains the most critical security challenge for the country, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
He made this remark during his speech at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines' (FOCAP) Philippine Prospect Conference at The Conservatory, The Manila Peninsula, Makati City Thursday.
"Lastly the West Philippine Sea. It is actually still the most critical, external security challenge for the Philippines, we have competing maritime claims there (with) some ASEAN members and China, and compounding the issue is the backdrop of a rapidly evolving regional environment where the United States and China have this ongoing rivalry on the control of the area, and also the potential Taiwan Strait conflict," he added.
The US is the country's treaty ally while China is the Philippines' largest next-door neighbor.
"I was asked yesterday (Wednesday) at the Senate hearing of our budget, what is our action if there is, if China will attack Taiwan. I don't know. I told them it's very unlikely that China will attack Taiwan but in the unlikely event then we just watch maybe," Lorenzana said.
Due to the situation, the DND chief said President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued a calibrated, comprehensive and constructive approach in engaging China.
"The goal is to pursue functional cooperation with China and with other claimant-countries (in the WPS)," he added.
Lorenzana also clarified that the country continues to view the arbitral tribunal ruling as valid and legitimate.
"And in many instances the President has said he's going to raise that before the Chinese before his term ends. We have not and we will not surrender any part of our territory," he said. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency