By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) |
MANILA, Philippines - The recent incident involving the Coast Guard and Taiwanese fishing vessels highlights the need to invest in the country’s defense capability, the military said on Monday.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the modernization of defense capabilities is not just a military concern but an endeavor of the entire nation.
“Our mandate remains to protect the people and the state and to defend our national territory. We will do that with whatever we’ve got,” Bautista said in a chance interview Monday.
"So this is a wake-up call for all of us as a people, that we should invest in our defense and this is not solely the responsibility of the AFP. This is a national responsibility for us Filipinos,” he added.
While critics doubt the military’s capabilities to defend the country’s sovereignty, Bautista said they remain determined to perform their duties.
“They cannot belittle the will of the Filipino people to defend (themselves),” the military chief said.
Calls to boost the country’s territorial defense capabilities mount after Coast Guard troops figured in a skirmish with Taiwanese vessels that left one Taiwanese fisherman dead.
The incident, which transpired last May 9, had prompted Taiwan to resort to pressure tactics including the banning of the hiring of Filipino migrant workers.
Coast Guard personnel on board a surveillance ship reportedly spotted a fishing vessel with what appeared to be Chinese characters near Balintang Island in the northern part of the country at around 10 a.m.
A sea chase that lasted for about an hour then ensued, with the 30-meter long Coast Guard ship MCS 3001 running after the fleeing Taiwanese fishing vessel.
The Taiwanese vessel allegedly tried to ram the Philippine vessel, prompting the Coast Guard personnel to fire warning shots.
The Coast Guard and their companions from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources were then forced to leave the area after seeing two other ships at a distance.
The MCS personnel claimed that they were not aware that the fisherman was hit during the time of the shooting.
Taiwan has condemned the incident and has resorted to media blitz to make it appear that the death of the 65-year old fisherman, identified as Hung Shih-cheng, was a murder.
The Taiwanese government then demanded that the Philippines apologize for the incident and to punish those responsible the shooting.
President Aquino apologized for the unintended death of the fisherman arising from the Coast Guard’s duty to secure Philippine waters against poachers.
Taiwan, however, rejected the apology and even enforced a ban on the hiring of Filipino workers in an apparent attempt to pressure the Philippines.
Taiwanese naval troops also conducted maritime exercises in waters off Batanes last week in what appeared to be a show of force. – with Bjorn Beltran