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Who 'mismanaged' West PHL Sea? Lorenzana points to previous admin

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday blamed the previous administration of Benigno Aquino III for the supposed "mismanagement" of the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

In an ambush interview after the flag-raising ceremony of the Department of National Defense in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Lorenzana enumerated what the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte had to face regarding the disputed waters when they assumed leadership.

"The handling is, tingnan niyo ha, anong nadatanan ni Presidente namin, nung pumasok kami ni Presidente? Ha? Kasi nga medyo mainit 'yung kwan noon eh, nong nadatnan natin. Wala tayong trade with China. 'Yung ating mga product natin hindi nila binibili. Walang tourist na pumupunta rito. Hindi tayo nakakapangisda doon sa Scarborough Shoal. 'Yung ating mga tropa hina-harass nila. Ngayon we sell our bananas there; they buy all our bananas. Tourist nila dito nag-doble," Lorenzana said.

"We can fish there and 'yung ating mga tropa hindi na hina-harass, except 'yung very isolated incident 'yung sa Ayungin. So is that mismanagement? We have managed it very well through the President's leadership. Hindi mismanaged 'yon. Ang nag-mismanage 'yung previous administration dahil nagkagulo-gulo rito," he added.

Last month, Duterte blamed the previous administration for not confronting China even after the country has secured a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration which invalidated the Asian superpower's excessive claims.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque later clarified that the chief executive was not pointing fingers, but was making a point that "we have to live with the reality" that the problem with China's militarization in the South China Sea has been existing when he took over the presidency.

It was under the Aquino administration in July 2016 when the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration delivered a sweeping victory to the Philippines when it declared as illegal China's claim over nearly the entire West Philippine Sea.

It also declared that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos, who were blocked by Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) off Zambales.

Duterte, however, set aside the ruling to avoid confrontation with China but vowed to raise it at the right time during his presidency. —KG, GMA News

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