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Muslim Lawmaker Urges Aquino Gov’t To Hasten AFP Modernization Program

SULU, Philippines --- A Muslim legislator from Sulu province has urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to hasten the implementation of the Philippine military modernization program, and allocate the needed funds to meet the financial requirement of the program – partially or in full in order to address external threat to the country.

In a privilege speech he delivered at the House of Representatives recently, Congressman Habib Tupay Loong (1st District, Sulu) said that “I stand today before this August Body, Mr. Speaker, on matter of personal and collective privilege on the issue of threat to national security, which this country is now facing.”

Loong said that the Aquino administration must now hasten the implementation of the country’s military modernization program to prepare the nation for any foreign encroachment to the Philippine territory.

It is sad to note that this threat to national security does not come alone from internal instability, but also from external forces, which might plunge this country into chaos and destruction, should it happened, he lamented.

“And today, China is threatening us with war as it sent its strong naval force to occupy and claim our territory of Panatag (Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough) shoal in the west Philippine Sea,” he claimed.

Based on reports he received, he said that there were five Chinese government vessels, and 16 Chinese fishing boats, 10 of which were inside the lagoon, while six were outside on May 21.

In addition, he said there were 56 utility boats, 27 of which were inside the lagoon and 29 were outside.

On Tuesday, there were still 16 Chinese fishing vessels and the number of utility boats went up to 76.

Loong added that the nation is now faced with another problem – the problem of imminent danger of external threat to our nation from China in regards to our claim to the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Loong said he hopes that no untoward incident will result out of this impasse, which may probably bring us into armed confrontation with China, “a confrontation which we surely do not want.”

More so, Loong said “we cannot afford to fight a war in many fronts, a war against the Bangsa Moro rebels and extremists, a war against the Communist New People’s Army, and a war against superpower China.”

As this developed, he urged the national government to sign in the soonest possible time a peace accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order for the military to limit its focus to the country’s external threat.

“With the resolution of our internal problems of rebellion, we should be able to focus on strengthening our military capability through the immediate implementation of the AFP modernization program,” he said.

The move, Loong said, will also show to the world that the Philippines, even if it is a small nation, is willing to face any foreign forces, big or small, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) had earlier reported that there is an increasing number, and pattern of Chinese government and fishing vessels in the disputed area.

China, on the other hand, has confirmed that it has sent government service ships to the disputed Panatag (Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough) Shoal to provide service and administration of Chinese fishing boats, as well as perform guard, management, and control duties in the area.

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Nonoy Lacson | Manila Bulletin | May 27, 2012 | Article Link

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