MANILA–A framework needs to be set up before any naval drill between Philippine Navy (PN) ships and their Chinese counterparts could be held, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.
When asked to comment on President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that he is willing to allow PN units to conduct naval drills with their Chinese counterparts at the Sulu Sea and Mindanao waters, Lorenzana said, “Yes, I heard him say that during his presscon yesterday (Monday). That’s perfectly fine with us. But first, we have to come up with a framework (agreement or understanding) that will determine where, what units, duration of patrol, purpose of patrol, communications between forces, etc.”
He also said that a lot of coordination needs to be done with China if this pushes through, as it would be the country’s first naval drill with them.
“There are a lot of things to coordinate, this being the first with the Chinese. This is important because they will be entering our territorial waters. And if their sailors will get on land, there may be a need for a Visiting Forces Agreement to be concurred by the Senate,” the defense chief explained.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said they are also open to the conduct of joint naval patrol exercises with China.
The AFP is open to the conduct of joint naval exercises, not only with China but also with other countries.
“We have so much to learn from each other, especially if we focus on HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief), anti-piracy and counter-terrorism scenarios. But before we can embark on these activities, both countries must enter into a defense/military agreement, like the Visiting Forces Agreement, to define the term of reference or protocol and must be in adherence to existing agreements with other allied countries,” Año pointed out.
“Sulu Sea is a good venue because it will provide excellent real-life scenarios to improve and hone our maritime security capabilities.”
President Duterte earlier said he is amenable to having PN ships conduct naval drills with their Chinese counterparts, especially in Sulu and Mindanao waters.
The Chief Executive made the statement after visiting the three Chinese naval ships in Sasa Wharf, Davao City Monday.
The visiting Chinese ships are the guided missile destroyer Chang Chun (DDG-150), guided missile frigate Jin Zhou (FFG-532), and Type 903 replenishment ship Chao Hu (890).