"We will not fire the first shot," says Secretary Esperon
Technology augments security measures, Secretary Esperon says
MANILA – Reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Forces are immediately processed by the National Task Force West Philippine Sea for appropriate action by other agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking at the virtual press briefing hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) late Wednesday morning, National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said the Task Force he heads meets every Tuesday or Wednesday making them responsive to the information received from the field.
“We can always act on matters that come to our attention. Northern Luzon Command and the Western Command have a 24/7 coverage of our area of responsibility and with the advent of technology, Viber and WhatsApp and internet simply gives us faster reaction,” he said.
He explained with or without a formal report, they can respond within the week as verification on reported intrusions can also be done by the Philippine Air Forces, Philippine Navy and our Philippine Coast Guard as well as the government’s assets within the area.
“We can do the verification within the day and (Foreign) Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. can always call his counterparts and we leave that to him,” he explained.
Asked of guidelines from the Task Force to operating Armed Forces of the Philippines’ personnel under the Western Command and Northern Luzon Command, the retired military commander said They have long established protocols and rules of engagement with the Philippine Air Force (PAF), the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) because of the presence of other countries’ navies, coast guard and militia.
“We will not fire the first shot,” he said as he echoed Philippine Navy’s Flag-Officer-In-Command Admiral Giovanni Bacordo’s earlier statement before the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines in a separate virtual forum two months ago.
He said they have rules governing appropriate response and challenges to foreign vessels and aircraft that intrude into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“Certainly we assert our rights over our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and so you can rest assured that our manuals, that our Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have very well established rules on this, they know what to do and they report very promptly on the developments on the ground or at sea,” he added. (Melo M. Acuña)
National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. (right) with PCOO Asst. Secretary Jayvee Arcena (left) and NAMRIA Deputy Administrator Efren Carandang (center) during the virtual press conference Wednesday morning. (Melo M. Acuna)