What now for PH Navy after Duterte's 'China pivot'?

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2017 05:52 PM

Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA – The Philippine Navy on Thursday denied that they were shortchanged by the administration’s renewed focus on internal security operations, and assured that they will continue to bolster their capability to defend the country and its territory.

Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, Navy Flag Officer in Command, said that their modernization projects will continue.

During the previous administration, defense policy was defined by a gradual but tangible shift from focusing on internal security to territorial defense, where the maritime conflict with China over islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) was the focal point.

The Aquino government gave a big chunk of the budget to the Navy and Air Force, which enabled them to proceed with big-ticket purchases such as FA-50 fighter jets and new vessels.

"Walang nabago. Tuluy-tuloy pa rin iyong modernization programs. In fact, all the projects within the first horizon, tatapusin natin. We will shift to the second horizon," said Mercado.

The Navy chief also explained that the shift to territorial defense was still happening, though with less fanfare because of the current administration’s attention on internal security threats such as terrorism and kidnap-for-ransom operations.

"There is no modernization program sa Navy that was stopped. Our president has mentioned that he will continue with the modernization program. Right now, there is much attention to the internal security activities…it's only the attention,” he stressed.

In light of the drastic change in relations between China and the Philippines, Mercado assured the public that the Navy will not cease to watch over its waters.

"We have never ceased or even changed our patrolling in the waters of our country. Laging nagpapatrolya iyong Navy, because it's our mandate…[Our troops] are always geared towards any contingencies that may happen," he said.

"We just follow the guidance of our national leaders and of the higher headquarters. Kung ano iyong guidance and policies that they give us, we always follow."