Senator Risa Hontiveros is skeptical of claims that the situation in the West Philippine Sea is ‘stable and manageable’ as reported by the Department of Defense (DND) in its budget hearing.
The senator stressed that ‘external’ threats to the Philippines should not be downplayed amid China’s repeated incursions in Philippine territory.
“I highly doubt that the situation in the West Philippine Sea is ‘manageable.’ Manageable ba na wala nang matitirang isda at likas-yaman sa ating karagatan? Manageable ba na wala nang magiging hanapbuhay ang mga mangingisdang Pilipino? Manageable ba na unti-unting nawawala ang ating soberanya?” the senator said, as she urged the DND to reevaluate their national security threat assessment.
Hontiveros emphasized that the primary mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) — which includes the Army, the Air Force, and the Philippine Navy — is to protect the Philippines from ‘external’ threats.
‘Internal’ threats, the senator said, should be largely addressed and managed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Kung may isyu man ng insurgency, dapat ang i-capacitate ang PNP, at hindi dapat nawawala sa focus ang AFP na unang protektahan ang ating mga teritoryo lalo na sa gitna ng patuloy na panghihimasok ng Tsina,” Hontiveros said.
“Our lifelong fight for economic and national security will be all for naught if we don’t take China’s adventurism in our territories seriously. Mas malaki silang kalaban, kaya dapat mas malaki din ang atensiyon na nilalaan sa kanila,” she added.
Hontiveros then questioned why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only appropriated P5 billion out of the P13.2 billion that the AFP modernization program is entitled to receive from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority’s proceeds.
“Where’s the remaining P8.2 billion? Why is DBM not appropriating the full P13.2 billion to AFP already? Baka kaya ginagawa nalang prayoridad ang ‘internal’ threat kasi kulang sa pondo para tunay na tugunan ang ‘external’ threats,” the senator said, reiterating her Proposed Senate Resolution 520 that seeks a Senate-led ‘comprehensive audit’ of the AFP’s use of its shares in BCDA’s earnings over the years.
“We cannot afford a shortage of funding for the AFP modernization program, especially during a time when a regional and rising global superpower is unabashedly taking resources that are 100% ours. Hindi biro ang banta ng Tsina sa ating seguridad. Dapat huwag maliitin ng DND ang panganib na dala nito sa bansa at sa mga Pilipino,” Hontiveros concluded.