Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said the maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea and Kalayaan Island Group by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue despite China's call for the Philippines to stop maritime drills in the area.
In a statement, Lorenzana said the government will not waver in its position.
"While we acknowledge that China’s military capability is more advanced than ours, this does not deter us from defending our national interest, and our dignity as a people, with all that we have," he said. "Walang alisan [No leaving]."
He also denied that his position on the matter is at odds with President Rodrigo Duterte's.
"To those saying that we are not aligned with the president, let me clarify that my pronouncements echo the stand of our president," Lorenzana said.
He added that the Philippines can "be cordial and cooperative with other nations but not at the expense of our sovereignty and sovereign rights."
"President Duterte’s orders to us have been very firm and straightforward: defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas," he said.
"As for our long standing and multi-faceted relationship with China, we maintain cooperation in various areas that are mutually beneficial to our peoples," he added.
Further, he said the latest developments in the disputed waters make it clear that there is a need for all stakeholders to cooperate.
"They can now take this as an opportunity to advance the values and principles we collectively affirm and profess to respect--including the peaceful settlements of disputes--as partners and as signatories to UNCLOS and other relevant international instruments," Lorenzana said.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry called on the Philippine security forces to stop maritime exercises in the South China Sea, saying it would "escalate disputes" in the area. — BM, GMA News