• Melo Acuna

Anti-terror measures needed, says Defense chief

Anti-terror measures still needed, says Defense chief Lorenzana

MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said the country’s law enforcers still need the anti-terror measures up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature or veto in the next seven days.

At the open forum at the National Defense College of the Philippines’ forum with Secretary Lorenzana this morning, he said while the government is winning against the Abu Sayaff, the threats from terrorism still exist. He added while terrorists may lie low for some time, they may be up for some activities and would surprise the general public.

“We need the law so enforcers can have more teeth to address the threats from terrorists as they would need some time to gather more evidences against suspected individuals,” he explained. He added once the law is enacted, the government will do aggressive information campaign with different government agencies and possibly some constitutional bodies including the Commission on Human Rights.

Regarding reports the Philippine government invited the Indian Armed Forces to get into the South China Sea, Defense Secretary Lorenzana said they did not invite the Indian military because “they volunteered.”

“The South China Sea is open for navigation for everybody but if they come, it may increase the tension in the area,” he explained. However, the Philippines cannot prevent them as navies from different countries pass by the South China Sea in their sorties to different country as the British and French armed forces pass through the South China Sea.

Asked of the reported exercises conducted by Chinese armed forces showing their capability to storm and seize islands in the contested area, Secretary Lorenzana said reports of this nature is “very concerning, we view that with alarm.”

“If they did it in their part of the South China Sea then it’s okay but if they are doing this in the contested areas, they that will, you know, sound the alarm bells for all the claimants here in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea including Viet Nam, Malaysia and all,” he said. He explained the Philippines is doing exercises with the Americans in the country’s territorial water. China can do this in their territorial waters or within their exclusive economic zone.

“If they do it in the contested area, then that’s highly provocative,” he further said.

Secretary Lorenzana was asked of his phone conversation with his American counterpart Secretary Mark Esper and whether it touched on the Visiting Forces Agreement. He said there will be no negotiation because the VFA still holds until it is terminated.

“The agreement says that any party can terminate it by giving notice to the other party and after the notice of termination takes effect after 180 days or six months. The Philippines serve the notice last February and would take effect by next month,” he explained.

It will be recalled President Duterte ordered the delivery of notice of termination to the US Embassy in Manila last February and would have ended by August this year. Very recently, President Duterte sent word to the US Embassy in Manila that it would suspend the abrogation of the VFA for still unknown reasons. (Melo M. Acuña)

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana. (File Photo/Melo M. Acuna)

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