MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said Philippine patrols in the West Philippine Sea will continue, as he denied that he and President Rodrigo Duterte have disagreements over how to handle China's intrusions into Philippine waters.
In a video posted on his Facebook page, Lorenzana said Duterte's orders were "very clear, firm and straightforward."
"Defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas. Yung nagsasabi na hindi kami aligned ng Presidente, let me clarify that my pronouncement echo the stand of our president," Lorenzana said.
The Defense chief added that the Philippines can maintain cooperation with China in various areas that are mutually beneficial to our peoples, "but not at the expense of our sovereignty and sovereign rights."
Lorenzana said that while China's military capability is more advanced "this does not prevent us from defending our national interests and our dignity as a people with all that we have."
"Thus the conduct of maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, in Kalayaan Islands by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue," Lorenzana said.
China recently called on the Philippines to "respect its sovereign rights" in the South China Sea, after as Manila ramped up maritime drills and patrols in the area amid growing tensions.
Lorenzana responded to this by saying China has "no authority or legal basis to prevent" the Philippines from conducting maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea.
Beijing does not recognize the 2016 ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which junked its "historical" claims to almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
At the start of his term, Duterte set aside the Philippines' arbitral victory saying wanted closer relations with China.
The Philippines however has taken a tough tone in recent weeks over the lingering presence of hundreds of Chinese boats in its exclusive economic zone.
"The government will not waver in this position. Walang alisan," Lorenzana said.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio have criticized Duterte's handling of the territorial dispute with China.
Carpio said Duterte's "self-inflicted blows" favored China on the sea dispute.
Malacañang meanwhile said Duterte was pursuing a "careful, calibrated, and calculated foreign policy to its ultimate success."