Philippine Navy chief says “Avoiding armed confrontation is a better alternative”
MANILA – The Philippine Navy will try to avoid armed conflict with the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard elements in the South China Sea.
In a virtual forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo J. Bacordo said while the Philippine Navy continues to patrol the areas within Philippine sovereignty, they have applied restraint from any aggressive action that may result in armed conflict.
He said when he assumed the position of Flag-Officer-In-Command, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a huddle, told him to protect the Philippines and the Filipino people.
“However, I was told to avoid actions that may escalate tension in the area,” he said. The Philippine Navy’s flag-officer-in-command explained they have always resorted to proper channels whenever controversies arise between the Philippine Navy and Chinese Navy and Coast Guard elements.
He said they have recorded violations by the Chinese military and paramilitary elements and have reported the same to the Department of National Defense which in turn informs the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“These reports have been used in diplomatic protests as well as the 2,000-page memoir submitted by the government to the Arbitral Tribunal,” Admiral Bacardo explained.
Asked of President Duterte’s order not to participate in military exercises in the South China Sea, Admiral Bacordo said the order is in consonance with the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea where the Philippines and China are co-signatories. He added the United States, Australia, Japan and possibly India are not signatories to the 2002 document which calls for restraint to avoid furtherance of tension in the area.
During the same briefing, he admitted the COVID-19 pandemic and some other concerns altered their timetables in connection with the Philippine Navy’s Modernization program by an average of 1.5 to two years. The programs include the delivery of the needed frigates and misille system, among others. Vice Admiral Bacordo said he is optimistic they will be able to recover for lost time. (Melo M. Acuña)
Philippine Navy Flag-Officer-In-Command Giovannni Carlo J. Bacordo (AFP). (Screen grab from FOCAP Forum Monday afternoon(