AKSYON Demokratiko presidential bet Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said he will be fearless in defending the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview during his listening tour in Zambales Moreno said he will assert the Hague Ruling and build the country’s capacity to defend its waters in securing unimpeded access for small fisherfolk to abundant fishing grounds.
“We will be fearless in fighting for what is ours. We will insist the Hague Ruling. But at the same time as being fearless, we are going to be fair with our discussion and management of the situation on both sides,” he said.
“We will be faithful to our farmers and fisherfolks. Ang mga mangingisda, dapat makapangisda sa loob ng ating teritoryo sa dagat. At iyon ang magaganap: undeterred, peaceful, and productive fishing opportunities under our rules,” he said.
Aside from diplomatic negotiations, the 47-year-old mayor said he will modernize the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard and improve the country’s lines of defense on its western coast.
“I will reinforce our Navy and Coast Guard. We will invest more on the western side of the country, so that we can protect our sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction as recognized by (the) UN and all other nations,” Moreno said.
“Ang maganda sa eastern board, wala naman tayong kapitbahay. Sa western board, from Tawi-Tawi to Batanes (meron). That’s how we’re going to do it,” he added.
Moreno also said he plans to strengthen the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
However, he said he is not currently inclined to invite the US to reinstall military bases in the Philippines.
“We have to study that. In fact, yesterday, we were in SBMA. It (US military bases) gives us some economic development there, which needs improvement. But bases, actually, sa ngayon, sa totoo lang, dagat lang, okay na. Kasi ang kailangan natin, archipelagic protection. Because we are an archipelagic country,” he said.
Nonetheless, trade treaties and agreements with the country’s regional neighbors, even claimants to the West Philippine Sea and economic rivals of the US, will continue under his administration, Moreno said.
“Treaties will be recognized. Trade with America, Vietnam, China and all other nations will continue because (the) WPS issue is far different from our economic issue in terms of trade. We’ll take that as an opportunity for us to gain, for the people to gain, for the country to gain,” he said.
In terms of budget, Moreno said the national government’s security spending will focus on external defense should he be elected President.
“Bibili tayo ng tingga? Babarilin natin ang kapwa nating Pilipino? I’ll just invest it in the body of water (and) protecting the future of our country, na wag nang mabawasan yung natitira pa,” he said. ANDI GARCIA