The Philippine Air Force (PAF) conducted a “solidarity maritime patrol” over the Philippine Rise on Saturday.
PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano on Sunday said the activity was part of the country’s commemoration of the 123rd Independence Day and 5th anniversary of the renaming of the Philippine Rise.
The commemoration aimed to promote marine conservation and to assert the country’s sovereign rights on the feature, formerly known as the Benham Rise, located approximately 250 kilometers east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.
Meanwhile, Sen. Leila De Lima slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for touting the “deep and abiding friendship” between the Philippines and China amid Beijing’s unrelenting incursions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
De Lima stressed that China is clearly taking advantage and bullying the Philippines as the former relentlessly refuses to recognize our sovereign rights in WPS and takes away the livelihood of Filipino people.
She said Duterte should stop dragging the entire country with this “so-called ‘deep and abiding friendship’” with China.
An EADS CASA C-295 medium transport and two South Korean-made FA-50PH fighter jets took part in the activity which was organized by the PAF and its Tactical Operations Wing Northern Luzon.
Aboard the transport aircraft was National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, also National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) chair and Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Burgos along with other ranking officials.
Esperon was the guest-of-honor during Independence Day ceremonies at Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga.
“The PAF C-295 aircraft was the primary aircraft for Secretary Esperon, Lt. Gen, Arnulfo Burgos and members of the NTF WPS during the conduct of the solidarity maritime patrol,” Mariano said.
He added that the event was highlighted by the escort mission by two FA-50PH fighter jets led by PAF chief Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes over sovereignty buoys or markers in the Philippine Rise.
“Escort missions such as in maritime patrols builds confidence and assures the Filipino people that the PAF will always be there to keep our airspace inviolable and safe for all of us,” Mariano said.
De Lima said China cannot be considered a friend due to its continuous incursions on our territory, stealing our resources, harassing our fishermen and threatening our fellow Filipinos.
In a recent forum celebrating the 46th anniversary of Philippines-China diplomatic relations, Duterte commended the “deep and abiding friendship between the Filipino and Chinese peoples.”
“It is a bond that predates, by centuries, the formal establishment of diplomatic relations 46 years ago,” Duterte said in a taped message before the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. that led a celebration of the event.
The President was apparently echoing words used in a letter to him from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping who marked the same anniversary by saying he was ready to work with Duterte “to achieve greater win-win results and mutual benefits.”
“It is not surprising that Duterte merely parroted President Xi Jinping’s words in his recent letter to him because he has, for years, kowtowed to China’s position on the WPS ruling,” said De Lima.
She emphasized that everyone knows that Duterte cares more about keeping his unusual friendship with China than protecting our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
De Lima, who was part of the Philippine delegation who argued the country’s arbitration case against China over the WPS before The Hague during her stint as Justice Secretary, maintained that what Duterte is doing in the Philippines’ relation with China is “a strategy of subservience and servility which betrays the Constitution and the Filipino people.”
This April, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 694 urging the government’s Executive branch to exert all legal and diplomatic actions on the Chinese government in asserting Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS.
De Lima is also among the 11 Senators who recently filed SR No. 708 urging the upper chamber to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the illegal activities of China in the disputed waters.