Defense chief says radar gun pointing act similar to past West PH Sea incidents

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has downplayed the incident involving a Chinese ship pointing a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters.

Speaking at the Laging Handa briefing on Tuesday, Lorenzana said the incident was no different from other encounters between both countries in the area.

"Ang sabi ko sa ating Navy at Air Force... hindi naman siguro sila papaputukan ng missile ang ating mga eroplano at barko, pero ito ay katulad lang ng kanilang ginagawa tuwing tayo ay dadaan diyan sa West Philippine Sea within our EEZ at china-challenge tayo na ang sabi e 'You are traversing Chinese territory,' pero ang isinasagot naman ng ating mga barko at eroplano ay 'We are traveling within our EEZ or within or territory.' Sagutan lang nang sagutan yan," he said.

[Translation:I told our Navy and Air Force it doesn't seem like they're going to shoot down our planes and ships, but this is just like when we pass along the West Philippine Sea within our EEZ and we are challenged by them saying "You are traversing Chinese territory," but we counter with "We are traveling within our EEZ or within or territory." That's just our usual back and forth.]

Lorenzana added a diplomatic protest has already been filed with China over the incident.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon has warned former Supreme Court Associate Justice Carpio from getting involved in issues regarding conflict in disputed waters.

At the same briefing Tuesday, Esperon said, "Kung ang iniisip ni Justice Carpio ay pakikipag-giyera, iwanan na lang niya sa Defense. Kinikilala siya sa kaalaman niya sa hustisya, huwag na siyang masyadong pumapel sa pakikipag-giyera."

[Translation: If Justice Carpio thinks about waging war, better for him to leave it to the Defense Department. He known for his expertise in the field of justice, he shouldn't interfere so much in issues regarding conflict.]

Carpio said the country should beef up its presence in the South China Sea amid "grave escalation" of Chinese presence there.

As a "pushback" to China's "intimidation," Carpio said the Philippines should team up for joint patrols with Malaysia and Vietnam and even with bigger naval powers — specifically the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia — to reinforce the country's stake in the waters where China has been hovering.

"We are sending a message to China that they cannot just pick us out one by one, we are united. If China still persists on doing the same thing, then we will also ask the Americans, we will join them in their naval patrols," Carpio said in an online forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

"If we do not do that, we can see more Chinese warships, service ships moving towards Reed Bank or even Malampaya. This is really an escalation and we should take this very seriously," he added.